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White Elephant, Gift Exchange, Secret Santa? Exchanging Gifts Safely this Holiday Season

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

By Max Allen

Much like everything else this year, the holiday season is going to require some changes. Even without the looming presence of a pandemic, gift-exchanges bring the struggle of “which gifts to give to who?,” but with COVID-19, there is another question to add to that list- how?

In an article from the UAB, Jodie Dionne-Odom, an assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says, “Packages will be coming from a number of hands, and you might not know the symptom status of everyone who touched it along the way… Wash your hands after opening and handling the package. That will kill the germs.” So if you are going to be exchanging presents with friends, making sure to have hand sanitizer nearby is important for reducing the risk of infection.

Depending on which way a group has chosen to exchange presents, different precautions are needed. Secret Santas are often done with large groups of people so that no one knows who is giving each gift, and although large gatherings are not safe right now, a modified version of a Secret Santa can still be done. Mailing gifts can be a great way to turn a large gathering into a socially distanced activity; sending gifts is also an option for friends or family who don’t live nearby. White Elephants, which include a lot of passing packages back and forth is, in this time, better done in a small group of family or close friends with masks and the proper safety measures, such as washing hands and staying distanced. For those being particularly cautious this season, a simple gift-exchange might be best to minimize both contact with others and the number of objects being passed around.

So whatever route you choose, make sure to follow the appropriate safety measures to ensure that you and those around you will stay safe.


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