Pura Botanica Blog

History of Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or family are randomly assigned a person to give an anonymous gift to. This is a tradition that has grown in popularity with several families and businesses in the United States, however, not many people know the true history of its origin.


The tradition of giving anonymous gifts at Christmas has its roots in Scandinavia, where Secret Santa is know as “Julklapp”. This word is compound combination of “Jul”, which means ‘Christmas’ and “Klapp”, which means ‘to knock’.  In Scandinavian countries, tradition says that you knock loudly on a door, open it and throw the gift into the room or leave it behind without being seen by anyone. This custom originally stems from the idea of Knecht Rupert or “Servant Rupert”, who wanders from house to house giving out gifts, all to serve his master, St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus.helper

The Scandinavian Julklapp has another unique custom associated with it. Rather than writing a name on the gift, a short and funny message is included instead. Based on what is written, the guests at the Secret Santa event can then figure out which gifts are meant for whom, usually accompanied by lots of laughter.

The Secret Santa tradition also dates back to German folklore. Near Christmas, time is of the essence and therefore the Christmas “Wichtel” (helper fairies) hold the important task of supporting Santa Claus in his deliverance of gifts. These helper fairies are the basis of what the Western world interpreted as Christmas elves.


So at this year’s Secret Santa celebration, try incorporating some of the past traditions mentioned above, like righting funny descriptive notes on packages. rather than names and have a little extra fun before even opening a present, trying to figure out who gets each gift.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!