Whether you celebrate Christmas religiously or not, the tradition of Secret Santa is something a lot of people participate in. Be it among the family, classmates at school or colleagues at work, the excitement of receiving little anonymous gifts makes it a fun holiday game for all to enjoy. While many people partake in the amusing tradition, only a few know its origins.
How it Began
In December of 1979, a man from Kansas City was fired from his job. It was a cold night out, and he was sitting inside a restaurant, feeling sorry for himself, when he noticed the waitress serving her customers in a thin, worn-out jacket. He decided he needed to change his perspective. From then on, Larry Dean Stewart, born in 1948, would go out in the streets and hand out $100 bills to people in need each December, subsequently making him an American folk figure and the original Secret Santa. After the 9/11 attack, Stewart had also gone to New York and had donated nearly $25000 in cash to people on the streets.
The Tradition Lives On
What started as a primarily western tradition has now spread to other parts of the world as well. The spirit of the season lives on, with more people participating in the anonymous gifting tradition. &ldquoWe do it every year, and it&rsquos the most anticipated week at work in December&rdquo said Smita Ganguli, a journalist from Mumbai.
A lot of people usually set a price limit for gifts, so they are accessible to everyone. &ldquoOur class teacher makes sure that we don&rsquot go overboard, and we have a Rs 500 upper limit so that everyone can participate,&rdquo said Tithi Joshi, a student from Prayagraj.
The Largest Secret Santa Exchange
In 2013, Reddit organised a Secret Santa in which nearly 90,000 people participated, breaking the Guinness world record. It is well-known that Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates also regularly participates in the Reddit exchange. With the tradition now spreading across the world, brands have started taking advantage of this with e-commerce websites, including a separate Secret Santa category every year during the holidays.
Stewart died in 2007 due to oesophageal cancer at the age of 58. Shortly before he died, his identity was revealed, and to this date, his hometown of Kansas City carries out his legacy through anonymous donations to the needy.