What is Christmas Friend?

Christmas Friend is a secret gift exchange activity that is a part of holiday and Christmas office parties in India. While the Christmas Friend activity in India is similar to the Secret Santa gift exchange in the U.S., there are several key differences that should be discussed to help provide context for foreign clients or counterparts celebrating Christmas in the office with the India offshore team. 

Christmas Friend Game Rules & Guidelines 
What should we expect while participating in the Christmas Friend gift exchange? The guidelines below are based on my limited experience participating in this festivity in Kerala, India. Feel free to share your experiences which may vary by corporate and/or local culture. 

A few days to a week before the holiday party, employees are assigned a name of a person to buy a gift for. 
  • The monetary limit set was about Rs. 300 (about US $5).
  • Only one gift is required to exchange during the holiday party during the gift exchange. But, some may get more than one, if the total of all gifts do not exceed the limit.  
How the exchange takes place:
  • All participants come to the holiday party holding their Christmas Friend gift. 
  • Gifts are handed out one by one in front of the group. 
  • One of the colleagues volunteers to exchange their gift first. When handing the gift, we may say, "My Christmas Friend is...." If cake is available, we hand the gift to our Christmas Friend with a piece of cake and a warm handshake saying "Happy Christmas." 
  • The gift exchange continues until everyone has their gift. See this post for gift idea dos and don'ts. 
  • After exchanging all the gifts, a small amount of wine may be shared (Maybe this is peculiar to Kerala.) followed by games and maybe lunch. 
  • Sometime later, gifts are opened in informal settings. They are not always opened in front of others or in front of the person who gave it to you. 
Tips on Dress Code: 
What I have seen in Kerala is that the dress code is relaxed as compared to Onam. While women wear salvaar kamiz (long shirts with pants), men may wear their normal work clothes or more casual jeans and t-shirt. Wearing red, white and green is also common. This is dependent on the office and it's norms. Feel free to ask in advance.

Notes: 
Funding for Christmas or Holiday parties is dependent on the office and the team. Some offices and teams get funding from the corporation, while in other offices or teams, colleagues donate equal amounts to cover the cost of decorations, food, drinks and other needs. For instance, in India, often a small fee between Rs. 100 - 300 could be collected from each person who is attending the party. 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post, helps build co-located, distributed and offshore/onsite teams through innovative coaching and training programs. Contact us for more information. 



What should I buy for my Indian colleagues for the Christmas Friend gift exchange? This post will provide some tips and ideas

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