Savas Claus™ 2019: A Tale of Savas Holiday Tradition

Jordan Nelson on background

Jordan Nelson —

Savas claus logo

Tis’ the season!

As you may remember from last year, here at Savas we began a tradition to celebrate the holidays and season of gift-giving. You may have heard of (and probably have participated in) Secret Santa—the game where a group buys gifts for one another secretly, exchanges them, and the receiver must try to guess the giver.

Usually, this game begins weeks before the predetermined date of gift-giving with a draw-from-the-hat choosing of who you will be gifting to. We saw problems with this:

  1. It wastes paper — we are, after all, a digital company and enjoy doing our part to #savethetrees
  2. You can easily end up with yourself — and if you do, the whole drawing names process has to be done all over again
  3. Our team is distributed far and wide — even if you can be “present” via video call, it becomes increasingly difficult to “draw” a name when you’re not in person or without someone having to find out your selection and inform you, therefore giving them an unfair advantage in the gift-guessing
  4. It’s less fun than this way we came up with

There were a few other challenges last year, but ultimately Chris built a Slack app affording us the chance to bring Ben’s idea to life. Now, another year later, I give you: Savas Claus™ 2019!

How it works

We use Slack apps regularly (read: nearly every day) to do things like randomizing the order team members will speak in a meeting to randomly decide who will choose the lunch. Savas Claus works like this:

“The app creates a random order of the team (the “givers”), generates a second randomly ordered list of the team (“the receivers”) and pairs them with each other. If there are any repeats among the two lists in the same slot, the app automatically regenerates the second list and will repeat until the lists share no one in the same slot, and therefore receivers can safely be assigned to givers. With the lists vetted, the Slack app privately messages each giver notifying them of their respective recipient.”

The Results

Several weeks before our scheduled Savas Claus™ we were assigned— randomly via our Savas Claus™ Slack app of course— who we would be buying a gift for.

This came with a few challenges of its own.

Challenge: How to handle gifting to/from remote folks Solution: Addresses were included when you were assigned your person to gift-give to even if they aren’t remote. If you are sending a gift to a remote team member, list the return address as “Savas Claus” so that the person knows not to open it until we are together “live” over video chat for Savas Claus™. Finally, if you are gifting as a remote team member to an office-based team member, ship the gift to the office or the person with the same rule: the return address listed as “Savas Claus”.

Challenge: As an office team, we would see each other come into the office with gifts, ruining the surprise. Solution: Savas Claus™ secretly made a Drop Off just outside the office. Problem solved.

Drop off zone
The Savas Claus gift drop off zone.
Savas Claus drop off close up
Savas Claus gifts go here.

Challenge: One team member would be out on vacation for Savas Claus™ and would be unable to receive packages Solution: This team member would call in (he offered) for the celebration, and a “surrogate opener” would be assigned to stand in for him in opening the gift on his behalf.

Once all solutions were found and Savas Claus™ was added to the calendar, it was time. Operation: Find a gift.

We all gathered for our usual Thursday Afternoon Meeting, and when all of the work-related things had been reviewed, discussed, and hashed out, it was officially time. We stacked up the presents, Ben attached a camera to his Savas Santa hat, our remote team logged on, and off we went.

Team goto meeting conference
The Savas Claus virtual conference.

Fun ensued. We had folks guess their gift-giver right off the bat, others who took several rounds of guessing to discover who their mystery-gift-giver was, lots of laughs and a whole lot of holiday cheer.

ben santa cam
Ben with the Savas Claus cam.
Chris opening gift
Chris opens a gift.
pike of gifts
Pile of Savas Claus gifts.

Ultimately, the gifts were thoughtful and fun: a cake cookbook, a vegan cookbook, dog toys (for one of our resident dog-lovers, of course), an R2-D2 coffee mug (hidden inside there were Harry Potter themed socks!), a desk punching bag, plants, shirts, hats, and a few games. All in all it was a great afternoon and we are looking forward to a productive and exciting year ahead!

ben succulent
A succulent!
Alex's gifts
R2D2 mug and Harry Potter socks!
madeline's gift
Madeline's desktop punching bag.