From its modest beginnings back in 2009, Reddit’s Secret Santa online gift exchange has been a runaway success. The brainchild of web developer and software architect Dan McComas, the Secret Santa campaign began with a question McComas threw out to the Reddit community: “Would anyone be interested in doing a Secret Santa?” And the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2011, Reddit set a Guinness World Record for the largest Secret Santa gift exchange. In 2012, they set a new record, and then Reddit shattered that record with its 2013 campaign. As the 2014 gift exchange rapidly approaches, Reddit is on track to destroy last year’s world record, and they’ve got the stats to back up that prediction. Here’s a look at some key Secret Santa numbers, and how they’ve trended over the past 5 years.
Number of Participants
Based on a very rapid and large affirmative response to his “Secret Santa” question, McComas set up a website allowing people to register for the gift exchange. Upon providing a mailing address and a profile of their likes, dislikes, and favorite social media links, people were randomly paired as both givers and receivers with people they had never met. At the end of the brief registration period for the cobbled together campaign, 4,300 people had signed up. In 2010 that number grew by a factor of four as seen in the visualization below. Not to be outdone by its predecessor, the 2011 campaign set a Guinness world record as the largest online Secret Santa campaign ever. Running on last year’s momentum, the 2012 campaign brought nearly 60,000 people together and set a new Guinness world record.
Needless to say, the 2013 Secret Santa event steamrolled into the Guinness record book once more. Doubling the previous effort, the 2013 campaign boasted over 120,000 participants. The idea of “strangers gifting strangers” was a runaway success.
Number of Countries Represented
In Reddit’s inaugural Secret Santa campaign, some 62 countries were represented—an impressive showing for a first-time venture. Since that time, the campaign has steadily been welcoming more and more countries to the fun. When the 2013 effort drew to a close, the number of countries represented in the campaign reached 162. That’s 83 percent of all the countries in the world!
Total Spent on Gifts Plus Shipping
With Secret Santa, Dan McComas set out to prove that money could buy happiness, provided it is spent on someone other than ourselves. And like those “Silver Bells” of Christmas that theory rang truer with each passing year. Secret Santa 2009 posted a modest expenditure of $130K for gifts with an additional $52K spent on shipping.
As the spirit of giving caught on, the 2010 campaign blew the previous numbers away with $500K being spent on gifts plus an additional $162K in shipping costs. With a total gift expenditure exceeding $1.4 million—representing $1 million in gift costs and nearly $400k for shipping—the world record setting 2011 campaign was twice as big as the previous year’s effort. In 2012 those numbers climbed to $1.6 million spent on gifts and $1.4 million on postage, for a combined total of $2 million! All previous totals were eclipsed by the 2013 campaign, which posted a staggering total gift and postage expenditure of over $3.8 million.
Guinness World Records
In 2009, McComas and his ragtag Reddit team of elves never dreamed that Secret Santa would ever set a Guinness world record. In 2011, Reddit teamed up with Guinness and launched an all-out effort to achieve that goal. As mentioned briefly above, that record has been set and re-set every year from 2013 to the present—and counting.
Better Watch Out for 2014
As the 2014 Secret Santa campaign unfolds, past and present statistics predict that history will be made once more. According to the latest Reddit numbers, a record 212,764 participants representing 188 countries—there are currently 196 countries in the world—have signed up for this year’s global gift exchange.
The Reddit campaign proves without any doubt that a simple act of kindness multiplied over the Internet can unite a world of strangers.
Who says Santa isn’t real?
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