It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas! Secret Santa Shenanigans in Phnom Penh.

Technically not really.  But Friday was the last teaching day before Christmas which amounted to the same thing for celebratory/ mandatory singing of Jingle Bells purposes.

The day began with a variant of Secret Santa at the school.  I didn’t make it to the gym because I woke up feeling pretty ill.  Just a cold I think, but headache, sore-throat, overly emotional and altogether utterly devoid of Christmas Cheer – which is actually a Winterval tradition anyway ironically enough.

Got to the school and found the school staff excitedly assembled in the reception area with a large box of wrapped presents. In the teachers’ room at the back a lavish breakfast of fruit and sticky rice parcels was laid out.  I got there 9.20ish and it took a while for others to appear.   However, eventually all were assembled.  Unlike a usual Secret Santa, this had a variant.  Instead of giving gifts to a known (to you) individual, everyone brought in two wrapped gifts costing around $2.50 each.  Each person in turn rolls a dice.  Then if they get a ‘one’ they pick a gift from the table, if they get a two all gifts are passed to the left, three was maybe exchange a gift, four keep a gift, five unwrap a gift, and six probably also choose a gift.  I’m not at all sure about this reinvention of Secret Santa, but I’d have to concede I am not the target audience for Secret Santa in the first place.  There is something about the tyranny of mandatory workplace socialising that makes me squirm.  This gathering was better than some in that it was an opportunity to mix with the local team at CWF, and they threw themselves into the whole thing with unbridled enthusiasm.


For my part I felt this reinventing of Secret Santa just prolonged the whole tortuous affair.  It also reeked of injustice.  It took bloomin hours, and then there was inequity in the division of presents (though rule changes meant you could only keep two presents) and then it would seem unnecessarily cruel.  So for example, someone would open a present which they really liked and then have to pass it on or someone would swap it, and although it was all in fun, it seemed to me to introduce an element of gratuitous cruelty ‘this is what you could have won..’ kind of thing  It was more accurately gentle teasing, but there were a couple of kids there and I don’t know just seemed a bit wrong.  Nevertheless, I freely concede I always find these occasions excruciating, and it wasn’t the worst I’ve been to by a long way.  Plus, I do get the importance of doing something together.  Some bits were funny.   The team member who kept getting and losing a bottle-shaped package, heart-broken each time it was removed from his grasp (like the squirrel in Ice Age film series with his acorn maybe), and the gift wrapped within a photocopying paper box was also particularly coveted (I can’t remember what was inside).

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Oh, I ended up with a powerful alcoholic concoction, and three Ferraro Roche.

From this, straight into the teachers’ meeting.  My head was pounding.  It was about assessment. Oh dear, I hate having to sit in judgement on my students.  To be fair, it doesn’t sound too onerous.  I just wish I didn’t keep having new students join everyday, it’s hard to get a handle on how individuals are faring when the dynamic constantly shifts.

So that was Secret Santa, done and dusted for another year.  Yay.



2 responses to “It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas! Secret Santa Shenanigans in Phnom Penh.

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