Unfortunately, Christmas is well and truly over and 2017 is coming to an end. However, it is only 361 days, 6 hours and 41 minutes to next Christmas so it’s never too early to start dreaming of Christmas 2018! When you are planning the festivities next year, give some thought to this, as it is my favourite family Christmas tradition of all time and it could be yours too!

I am sure everyone has heard of the normal ‘Secret Santa’, well our family take a slight twist on this! A few years ago my sister came up with the idea of ‘£5 Charity shop Secret Santa’, as she had taken a fascination with charity shops and thought it would be great fun on Christmas day. How right she was, as years later, it is still one of the most anticipated activities over the Christmas period amongst my family.

In our house, Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Everyone comes home to spend time together, the fridge and cupboards are filled with food, and the wine glasses and cheeseboards never seem to empty!

On Christmas day my family of seven either host my godmother’s family of six or we head up to Fermanagh to join them, so there is a total of thirteen of us in totally taking part in this novelty Secret Santa.  Some of us are studying at university, some of us are living in England so it is the one time of year where we all come together. As this is a rare occasion, we use a website called ‘DrawNames.co.uk’ to generate everyone’s Secret Santa through email. We do this three weeks before Christmas, and then the fun begins as you spend time thinking about what absolutely hilarious item you are going to go on the hunt for.

The general rule of thumb, is the funnier, the better. The more random, the better. The bigger, the better. Therefore everyone is trying to outdo each other with hilarious finds they have come across in the charity shop on their search for the perfect present. Everyone has had a few drinks in them whilst exchanging gifts, so we probably think we are ten times funnier than we are, and the Snapchat and Instagram stories go overboard!

Over the years there have been some absolutely hilarious presents.

My brother Dermot got my auntie a guitar (that is in perfect condition) for £5, so that in her retirement she could ‘work on her music career’… I don’t know how promising this will be!

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Two years ago my daddy got my sixteen year old brother at the time, a pair of hilariously hugely oversized cricket shin pads, with the reason being, “he has to start learning how to use protection soon” … Cringe for my little brother but absolutely hysterically funny for the rest of us!

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(My sister Lisa having great fun with them instead!)

A few years ago I got my youngest cousin Grainne, who would be known as the ‘baby’ of the house, but also as a completely spoilt ‘princess’… So I got her lots of children’s toys, a child’s princess handbag and tiara. This year my brother got her a pony, as apparently she has been begging her daddy for one for years!!

 

This year my Daddy thought he absolutely hilarious. He got me a toy chair with a big sign saying ‘The Naughty Chair’, apparently for all the badness I get up to partying in The Holylands!!

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There is also some very dodgy wrapping along the way. My youngest brother Dermot wrapped his up in a bin bag and I ran out of paper along the way..

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I was in a charity shop with my friend this year explaining to her what the tradition was whilst searching for a funny present, when one of the women who worked in the charity shop approached me. She apologised for listening to our conversation but she was truly amazed at this idea, she said she had never heard of anyone doing this before! She loved the idea so much that she wants to incorporate it into their Advertising and Public relations strategy next year. She explained they had quite a low budget for this, but thought this would be a really effective message to target people in the lead up to Christmas next year!

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It would be amazing if more families got involved in this and made it one of their own traditions. As each year we raise a small sum of £65 for charity shops across Northern Ireland, but throughout the years it has been hundreds of pounds. For example, if ten families of five were to do this every Christmas, that is £250 raised for charities, so imagine if hundreds of families did this!

Here’s a video of what everyone got a few years ago.

Oh and YES, my family are slightly crazy if you haven’t guessed that by now!

 

Helen McAleer is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on linkedin.com/in/helen-mcaleer-6b1221b4 and on Twitter: @Helen_McAleer30