Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Remembering Secret Santa

When I was in grad school, several years, we did Secret Santa. This was 100% optional; if you wanted to do it, you signed up a bit before Thanksgiving, and you got your name (and someone got your name) at the start of December. The idea was, for one week - maybe Finals week, maybe the last week of classes, I forget - you got tiny little gifts for your person. At the end of the week was the grad-student party (faculty were invited too, and in fact, they provided much of the food) and you gave a slightly bigger gift and revealed who you were.

I love to give gifts and so this was my jam (as the cool kids say). I did it every year it was offered. It had the added fun of (morally-sanctioned!) sneaking around where you tried to find out about your person (if you didn't know them well) from their labmates or friends (whom you swore to secrecy) and also the big fun of dropping off the gifts so as not to reveal yourself prematurely.

This was often simplified by the fact that the grad students, like the faculty, had mail cubbies where you could sneak in and leave stuff. I tried to do it (when I did it) at a time when no one else was around, but also not at an "obvious" time (so: not leaving the stuff first thing in the morning when it was known I was one of the first people in)

One year I had my officemate Michelle and it was hilarious and wonderful because Michelle was just-so-slightly oblivious (think: absentminded professor in training) and I'd leave the gift on her desk when she was out teaching a class or something, and she'd come back and be like "OH my gift is here, did you see who did it?" and I'd kind of shrug and go, "No, but I went out to the restroom a few times while I was working here, maybe they managed to sneak in then" all the while keeping a straight face but totally laughing inside because SHE DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS ME

And she didn't. She was genuinely surprised at the Christmas party when I gave her the bigger gift.

That's one of my favorite memories of grad school.

And yeah, I kind of miss that. I suppose when you're an adult and there's maybe a little bit more of a hierarchy going on things can get weird (like in a department where you might get your chair as your recipient) but in its pure form - where it's among total equals, like the grad students pretty much were - it's just so much fun, because there's the getting to get little fun gifts for someone (these were very cheap things - I gave stuff like candy bars or packs of Christmas pencils or tiny toys) and also the fun of, as I said, getting to sneak around and be deceptive BUT FOR A GOOD PURPOSE.

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