Monday, 4 December 2017

Secret Santa - Without a Facilitator Using QR Codes


We decided to introduce our younger kids to joy of giving gifts this Christmas by organising a Secret Santa. But we all want to have the fun of guessing who the secret santa is, so decided to find a way that didn't use a facilitator. In addition to that, two people had to be included over Facetime, giving them the same experience, and preserving their secrecy.

There are ways to do this using websites and apps, but I wanted to be able to do this with paper, drawing evelopes from a box, and so I could supply a generic label for everyone to use.

The Problem

There are basically two rules in this endevour:
  • ensure you don't pick yourself.
  • maintain secrecy at all times.
I needed a way that envelopes could be uniquely identified, but not without some work. They should all look the same to the naked eye so nobody should be able to see when their envelope has been drawn, yet the drawer should be able to effectively reject their own.

Thinking back to my post on treasure hunts the other year, this seemed like a job for QR Codes!

Printing Codes

Find yourself a good QR code generator, (I used, but you can also create them in QR Reader Apps on your phone.

1 - Start out by creating a load of codes based on simple numbers, to fix to your envelopes. Print them out at a size of around 1 inch square.

Envelope Identifiers (1-7)

2 - Then create a set of labels with the recipients name and any other details you'd like to add. (I added their Christmas Elf name details from )

Label for my son Saul

Finally I printed off a note for each person. You don't need a QR code on this, and it could just be a bit of paper with their name.

Saul's Note & Instructions

OK, now you're ready to start.

Running the Selection Process

Follow these instructions:-
  1. Fix the envelope identifier QR codes to the outside of your envelopes in a way that they all appear to be the same. (note the orientation of the corner blocks). Use a glue stick so that the label may be removed near the end.
  2. Give each person their own note and label, and a randomly selected envelope.
  3. Each person should then seal these inside their envelope. 
  4. Everyone should then scan their envelope code with their phone to find out their number/id and then post the envelope into a box.
  5. Shake the box to mix up the envelopes and have each person draw one in turn, while others wait at the far end of the room.
  6. After selecting they should scan the QR code and ensure it doesnt belong to them. (if so, have them replace it and take another)
  7. Peel off the QR code and place it in the box, then they should open the envelope in secret.
(Repeat 5-7 for all)

nb. Those joining on Facetime will need an assistant in the room to hold their envelope up to the camera so the remote person can scan it. After drawing the envelope (in step 5) the assistant will also have to write their name and either post it, or find a way of getting it to them.

Hope you find this useful, have a nice holiday.

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