Secret Santa

Let’s round this week out with one more school-related activity.  That side project I mentioned I was working on that helped create the need for me to take a week off from blogging?  It was Secret Santa.

I already mentioned that I’m usually nutso for Christmas, right?  But that my enthusiasm has been curbed over the past three years.  Well, it came back out to play just a little bit over the past couple of weeks, at least as it relates to Christmas gifts.  Secret Santa at work brought it out.  No joke, guys, I rock at Christmas gifts.  Seriously, I rock.  HARD.  Like, I super rock at Christmas gifts.  I knew it before but these past two weeks have shown me that although I’ve shelved my outright Christmas crazy for the time being, I haven’t lost my Christmas gift mojo.

I haven’t participated in Secret Santa for several years because I haven’t worked in a normal working environment for several years.  When Secret Santa was announced on our work WhatsApp group, I didn’t really pay it any mind, caught up as I was in…well, in work.  But then someone came around with a box of rolled up names and I had to pick one.  On the first draw, I picked my own name so I had to put it back and pick again.  I just barely managed to keep my jaw from dropping when I went in for the second pick because the point of Secret Santa is to keep the name you have a secret.  But I couldn’t believe who I got.  The owner of our school and everyone’s boss.  WHAAAATTT???  What was I supposed to do with that??

The thing is guys, this woman is something.  In fact, I can say without hesitation that she is only the second businesswoman who has ever impressed me the way she has, and she’s second only to my friend, Canada.  This woman embodies so much and I respect her, her accomplishments, her attitude and the way she runs her company, to a degree and in a way that I respect few other people in life.  She’s kind, generous and compassionate while being passionate, driven and no-nonsense at the same time.  I don’t know her history but I can guess that she’s had to take and put up with a lot of crap to be the owner of the largest language school in this city, and owner of one of the premier businesses here.  She’s a savvy businesswoman and I genuinely like what I know of her.

Having said all that, I don’t know her like that.  It’s not like she’s one of my fellow teachers who sits and chats in the teacher’s room with the rest of us as we learn little things about each other.  I see her once or twice every month when she comes through our school for a visit (her office and some of the admin staff are located in a different building) or for an all-company meeting.  When I give gifts – Christmas or otherwise – I like for it to mean something to the person or for it to be something they really desire.  I spend time trying to pick up little hints as to what they really want so that I can satisfy a need for them, not just get them something like I’m checking a chore off my list.  This was Secret Santa, though, and there was no way for me to inconspicuously spend time with her in order to pick up on any little desires.

I thought of going out and picking her up a nice brooch or something but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  That’s so impersonal and generic and my mind rebelled as soon as I thought of it.  So I reached out to our HR guru, confided in her whose name I had for Secret Santa and asked for ideas of what my target would want, since they work closely together and in the same office.  My confidante told me that my target would really appreciate anything I chose to give her and that she still had the handmade Christmas gift from last year’s Secret Santa sitting on her desk.  I prayed on it, did some Googling and an idea was born.

The idea behind Secret Santa is that the gifts will be exchanged at the company Christmas party.  But how I’m used to Secret Santa being done from my working life in Jamaica (where we call it “Pixie”, not Secret Santa) is that you secretly leave little treats for your recipient in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, leaving them wondering and trying to guess who their Santa is, all while they’re made to feel special, like someone put some special thought into them that day.  So I decided to play it that way.  I decided to Pixie my target.  I got to planning what I would do.

I decided to give her a series of six treats over two weeks before the final gift at the Christmas party.  As my ideas developed, I decided that each of the six treats would be from a different Christmas character, sent through her Santa.  Google helped me decide on the gifts and God helped me be creative enough to decide on the Christmas characters (I say God because, honestly guys, I was never this creative before!).

Gift one was the sparkles from a Christmas Angel’s halo, also known as a bottle of white nail polish with glitter in it, because Yakutian women love to get their nails done.  Gift two was a jar of kisses from Buddy The Elf, which was red and white gum drops, because sometimes a person needs a little sugar shot during the day.  Gift three was a reindeer nose – one could easily mistake it for a chocolate cupcake, tee hee! – because in Yakutia we don’t waste any part of the reindeer.  Gift four was fairy dust from the Sugar Plum Fairy, which was a homemade sugar scrub with coconut oil and glycerin oil (I made it myself, first time making sugar scrub.  Thank you, Google!).  Gift five was melted snowman, also known as a bottle of water which I hand-made a “melted snowman” label for – to keep her hydrated in the dry winter air.  Gift six, which is yet to be presented, is the drink that warmed the Grinch’s heart, or hot chocolate with marshmallows and a candy cane to stir the delicious concoction, presented in a cute Christmas mug from which to drink it.

Each gift was presented in plain brown paper with a handmade Rudolph enveloped attached, bearing a short note from her Santa, handwritten in Russian, explaining what the gift was and who wanted him to send it to her – a Christmas Angel, Buddy the Elf, and so on.  None of these gifts cost me much except time, thought and effort to make or assemble them; in total I’ve spent about US$30.  It also cost me a little bit of my health and contributed to my week off from this blog because I got under the weather and couldn’t pull myself together to write since I went walking a couple of Saturdays ago, looking for one of the gifts, and didn’t wrap my scarf properly at one point when I was exiting a mall.  In any case, I think I’ve achieved what I wanted to, which was to give her an experience that makes her feel special, appreciated and thought about.  No amount of money could buy that.

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Two wrapped gift, two not-yet wrapped gifts.  All labels and envelopes are handmade by me and the notes are handwritten in Russian by me with translation help from my elf

The Christmas party is next Wednesday and five of the pre-party gifts have been delivered, with the Grinch Heart Warmer to be delivered on Monday.  My elf is my HR guru confidante, who has been a superstar Santa’s helper.

My target, will receive the final gift next Wednesday night at the Christmas party.  It’s a framed poster that I made myself, inspired by Helen Reddy’s song I Am Woman, because there really aren’t many women who I specifically think of when I hear that song but this woman is one of them.  I think she’ll like it.  I’ll let you know.

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All designed and handmade, except the wooden picture frame

And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. Luke 6:31 (NASB)

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