Guest post: @WebSam – #nzsecretsanta history, growth and learning

Christmas is fast approaching and with that it means NZ Twitter Secret Santa is here.  This is the 7th year it has been going which is awesome and I sometimes must stop and realise that I ran this for the first 3 years, which looking back on it, was some crazy times.

In the beginning

I had a conversation on Twitter and the topic of Secret Santa in the workplace came up, we discussed how cool it would be if there was a Secret Santa for people on Twitter.  That thought must have stuck in my head as next thing I know I am announcing that’s what was going to do.

There was no planning, or real thought put into it.  It seemed like a good idea and I asked whoever wanted to take part to DM me their addresses and I would match them up with someone.

I had no idea how I was going to manage the matching side of things, but via the magic of Twitter I was sent a rather fancy spreadsheet that would randomly match people up and create the tweet for me to DM later.

Initially there were around 240 people sign up, and due to a little bit of media coverage right at the end of sign up, I did a second round with another 200 + people signing up.

There were many late nights making sure I had the details I needed, tweets going all over the place and making sure people didn’t get matched with people they didn’t want to be matched with.

For the 2nd and 3rd year I put together a website that collected people’s details, which helped streamline the process for me, and from memory the 3rd year had around 850 people signed up to play.

Running a Secret Santa on this scale by yourself leads to some challenges, people not getting gifts, gifts turning up 4 months later, or participants turning up to hand deliver their gift in March.  But overall, everything seemed to go OK.

I think some people thought there was a whole team working behind the scenes, probably didn’t help I used my average Photoshop skills to create 3 of myself working


Time to grow

I didn’t think I would be able to deal with another year of running it, or give it the justice it deserved, so I put the call out to see if there was anyone else out there that was up for the challenge.

I didn’t have any idea of who would be an ideal fit for this, I just knew I wasn’t keen for someone to commercialise it, this was evident when people said they would rather prefer a hairy giant pumpkin grower from Hamilton was running it rather than a nationwide radio station who had shown some interest early on.

NZ Post contacted me and said they might be keen, they just had to check with some bigwigs and would be back in touch, while they were doing that I talked to a couple of people on Twitter about it, and the responses were positive.

To cut a long story short, NZ Post took over NZ Twitter Secret Santa, and with their small team of Elves have been improving the Secret Santa experience ever year, this year they implemented loading your block lists, matching Secret Santa’s and getting an amazing group of businesses on board to help with the inevitable bad Santa’s.

I can’t think of a better company to be running NZ Secret Santa, and I get excited to take part every year, I hope you do too.

Things I have learnt

Being in the unique position of running and taking part in NZ Secret Santa, here are a few things I personally have learnt over the years.

  • Giving is more important than receiving
  • Putting just a little bit of thought into the gift makes it so much better
  • Handmade + Cheap doesn’t make a bad gift, just make it awesome
  • Be nice to everyone, including the Elves, they do an awesome job as well as their day jobs.
  • Make sure to tell everyone you know to take part, so many people never hear about it until after registration closes.
  • If the worst thing to happen to you is that you didn’t get a random gift from a stranger off the internet, then count yourself lucky.

For more on what I am up to, or to say hi.  Check me out @websam or

Guest post: @WebSam – #nzsecretsanta history, growth and learning

FAQs – #NZSecretSanta 2016

Welcome Santas! Thanks for taking the time to take a gander at our FAQs. If there’s a question we haven’t addressed, leave a comment below or tweet us at @NZSecretSanta.


How do I sign up?

Head on over to and hit the ‘sign up to play’ button!

How long are registrations open for?

Currently, 10 November until 24 November, but the elves reserve the right to change the closing date as needed.

When do I find out who I’m Santa for?

25 November!

I didn’t get a confirmation email?

We don’t send confirmation emails when you sign up. You’ll be emailed on 25 November with details on who you’ve been matched with.

I didn’t get a match email?!

If it’s after the 25th and you didn’t get an email from us, we’ve sent it! Log into your dashboard at and you’ll be able to see who you’re playing Santa for.

Can I start tweeting hints?

For sure! Be sure to use the hashtag ‘#NZSecretSanta’ to make it easier for your Santa to find your hints.

Pro tip: You can find someone’s hints easily by searching their username and the hashtag #NZSecretSanta in Twitter’s search bar.

Wasn’t there a dashboard that showed Santa signups?

There sure is! It’s right here. You’ll also be able to see stats about gifts when the time comes.

Pro Tip (2).png

Who’s the charity this year?

Our friends at CanTeen are! You can find them here on Twitter.

What are you doing for CanTeen?

As in previous years, we’ll be donating presents (after elf approval for appropriateness) intended for Bad Santas. We’re also working with a couple of sponsors on super special extra things behind the scenes. We’ll announce what this is when we have it all finalised.

What can I do for them?

You can get them a present! If you’re getting a present for CanTeen, we ask that you send it separately and clearly label it (To: CanTeenNZ, from [Your Username]).

Why can’t I bundle in the presents together?

As a rule, we generally don’t repack the presents (barring ones intended for Bad Santas), we just change the shipping address so it goes to your recipient. There’s only a few elves in the storehouse, so we don’t have the capacity to repack them. You’ll be saving us a whole bunch of elf-time and elf-labour, so thank you in advance. ❤

What can I send to CanTeen?

Good question! Here’s the wishlist CanTeen provided us:

  • Colouring in books and pencils
  • DVDs
  • Food (chocolates/bags of lollies)
  • Nail polish
  • Body products (moisturiser/soap/hand creams)
  • Bed Socks/socks
  • Magazines
  • Small motivational wall Art pieces
  • Magnet holders for photos etc
  • Candles
  • Itunes gift card
  • Headwear (Caps, Hats, Beanies)
  • T-Shirts
  • Hair products
  • Wallets / Card holders
  • Cool stationery (e.g. fluffy pens)
  • Eye brow pencils
  • Photo frames
  • DIY art kits
  • Key rings
  • Posters (gaming, boy bands)
  • Playing cards
  • Mobile phone top up vouchers
  • Headphones
  • Diaries or Journals

Do I wrap my present for CanTeen?

Good question! Ideally not, we need to vet the presents for appropriateness, but in the end it’s up to you! We enjoy unwrapping presents as much as anyone. 🙂


How can I help the elves?

In a few different ways.

  1. Spread the word! Retweet our tweets, write your own tweets and use the #NZSecretSanta hashtag
  2. Be a good Santa!
  3. Tweet your own personal NZ Secret Santa journey – what’s going on in your mind while you’re sleuthing, whether or not you’ve bought your gift, if you’ve wrapped it, if you’ve sent it, etc.
  4. (Optional) Sign up to be a Super Secret Santa!

What’s a Super Secret Santa?

A Super Secret Santa is someone who goes above and beyond for us! Occasionally we have less presents than players because of Bad Santas, so we like to ask our Santas to step up to be Super Secret Santas before delving into the NZ Secret Santa Bad Santa Gift Stash (provided by sponsors). Please note that this is essentially an on call situation, we will need you to be prepared to buy a present for someone on very short notice, so we understand if not everyone can be a Super Secret Santa.

Can I send a gift to another Tweep using the Storehouse system?

Yes, but only if they’re signed up for #nzsecretsanta – if they’re not, the gift will be returned to sender or given to charity if no sender details are provided.

PLEASE add *any* extra gifts you send to your dashboard ( so we know when they’re coming, who they’re from and who they’re for. It’ll also tell you if the person you’re wanting to send to isn’t playing.

I want to help in person! Can I help send the presents?

Short answer, no.

Long answer, no, because the storehouse is in a customs bonded area (surrounded by snow and happy reindeer). This is a strict no access area for almost everyone and you need special clearance to get in, which unfortunately, we don’t have the power to hand out to players, as much as we’d appreciate your help.

Where is Santa’s Storehouse?

9 Laurence Stevens Drive, Auckland Airport. In a special, magical part of the Auckland International Mail Centre. Surrounded by snow and happy reindeer.

Where is elf HQ?

Most of our elves are based at NZ Post House in Wellington.

And that’s all from us for now!

Libby, Aj and the Elves xx

FAQs – #NZSecretSanta 2016