‘Tis The Season to Reddit: The World’s Largest Gift Exchange Shows the True Meaning of the Holidays

by The Cowl Editor on November 16, 2017

Arts & Entertainment

two people exchange a Christmas present
Photo courtesy of Thomas Trutschel

by Ryan Cox ’18

A&E Staff

Now that Halloween is past, many people are skipping right over Thanksgiving and preparing for the Christmas season. With a social climate of overwhelming pessimism, the spirit of joy and selflessness that comes with Christmas seems sacred this year. Nowhere in the world is this spirit more prominent than on Reddit and its gift exchange offshoot, Redditgifts.

In its ninth year, Redditgifts has grown to include gift exchanges all year long, but its most popular remains its annual Secret Santa exchange. The Secret Santa exchange broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest Secret Santa three—times most recently in 2014—with 89,421 participants registered worldwide.

The unofficial total from 2016 dwarfs that past record; 118,910 users took part in the exchange last year. At the time of writing, 63,832 participants in 118 countries have registered for this year’s exchange.

Redditgifts’ mission stems from the idea that these random acts of kindness should not be limited to Christmas. Other themed exchanges held this year include Harry Potter, board games, hockey, and kitchen goods, providing an exchange for all interests. During Christmas, this is all the more important.

According to the Redditgifts website, Reddit users have participated in secret santa for a common theme: to spread goodwill and joy to one another, through the spirit of giving and receiving happiness…in a time where love and optimism is needed across the globe.”

Joining the Secret Santa exchange is simple and free. You must have an active Reddit account to participate (free to join), and there is no charge to participate in the exchange, except for purchasing the gift for your assigned user. A credit system is in place to hold users accountable for completing their part in the exchange, and credits are only accumulated by participating and completing different exchanges.

After filling out an icebreaker-style questionnaire, which gives your Santa some information to work off of, participants are matched by the website. “Santas” are given their target’s Reddit username, so they can look further into their target’s interests. Participants are also given the option to be a “rematch Santa” and purchase additional gifts for those whose original Santas failed to follow through on their assignments.

Over one million gifts have been exchanged via Redditgifts over the last nine years, staying close to the original mission and working mostly through the honor system to make the program successful. The deadline to participate in this year’s Secret Santa exchange is Nov. 27.

As one user put it, “Redditgifts is a group of total strangers from all over the world who have managed to form a community held together by one thing—being thoughtful and generous to one another. It’s amazing that a group of people who have never met each other…can come together to form such a strong, connected community. Being a part of Redditgifts is something huge and magical.”