Here’s What Happens When the Senate Plays Secret Santa
Policy + Politics

Here’s What Happens When the Senate Plays Secret Santa

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Earlier this month 59 Senators put their political differences aside for a Yuletide gift exchange.

It marked the fifth annual Secret Santa exchange since Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) brought the tradition to the Senate. Both a mix of Republicans and Democrats participated.

"In the Senate, we have serious jobs and often face some very sobering issues," said Sen. Franken in an emailed statement. "But every year, I host my bipartisan Secret Santa to lighten the mood and embrace the spirit of the holiday season.”

Senators pick names from a hat and buy the person they selected a gift anonymously. The “Secret Santa” is not revealed until the gift is opened. Sen. Franken chose Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). He drew her a map of the United States and personalized it by adding important details about her life.

Here’s how other senators celebrated:

  • Sen. Moore Capito gave salt mined in West Virginia to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), according to Roll Call.

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) received a Texas-shaped cheeseboard and Cabot cheese from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), according to Roll Call.

  • Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) gave Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) Senor Murphy candy.

  • Sen. Cardin (D-MD) gave Old Bay candy and Flying Dog beer spiced with Old Bay seasoning—both Maryland favorites—to an undisclosed recipient.

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) got a small glass terrarium with Japanese moss balls from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), according to Roll Call.

  • Sen. Booker (D-NJ) wrote a poem for Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).

  • Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) gave Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) the board game “High Rollers” based on the TV game show. McCaskill appeared on the game show in 1978.

  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) received a bottle of Oregon wine from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), according to Roll Call.

  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who could not attend the party, gave Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) Hawaiian “Kona Coffee,” according to Roll Call.

Sen. Franken used to participate in a Secret Santa exchange when he was in elementary school in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. One year, he had to get a gift for one kid who picked on him on the playground. But because of the exchange, the two became friends. Sen. Franken hoped the Senate exchange would cut through partisan politics in a similar way.

“Ever since I started hosting this event, it’s done exactly what it was supposed to do,” said Franken, “create comity and good cheer in an institution badly in need of both.”