Secret Santa, the words a socially challenged office worker loves to hate. Every Christmas is spent trying to think up a new excuse to get out of taking part and avoid the disapproving stares and calls of bah humbug from the rest of the office. It doesn’t help your already fragile reputation as you already struggle with the simplest of human contact. Now forced to suffer peer pressure from people who you’re not actually sure care about you, merely wanting to get their way, Christmas in an office can sometimes be difficult. I personally don’t like the idea of Secret Santa, its a peculiar expression of instituted consumerism by the people paying you. Here’s the money for working here, now spend it on a colleague you might not even know, forcing you to buy something generic that shows no thought. I don’t know if anyone feels the same but I want my presents to show that I care. I don’t care about spending money, but I want it to come as an expression that if I’m giving you a gift it means something. Alas if you work in an office its beyond impossible to escape, that is unless you have a plan of your own.
Last year at the start of December the subject of Secret Santa came up in the office I used to work in. I tried to ignore it. I’d been plotting something over the month of November that I wanted to do, so I opted out immediately. The team wasn’t happy until I revealed I was doing something special. They were intrigued and whilst trying to pry out more information I was allowed to indulge my creativity. For once I was in a position at Christmas time when I was working within a team that I liked. Most years I don’t fit in, most places I don’t fit in but there was something about this group of people that accepted and adored my eccentricities. It also helped that upper management were utterly inept and had forged us together to overcome their frankly negligent abilities. I really wanted to do something special for everyone, something a little different that they would remember and actually showed them that I cared. It was with that I began preparations for my festive pineapples.
Yes, that’s right, pineapples! They’d be decorated and adorned with ribbons turning them into an exotically Christmas themed centre piece. Each pineapple would have its own handmade gift tag, with a Christmas/pineapple themed poem written on them. They would be handed out on Christmas Eve and by the count I had I would be making twelve of these festive fruits. It was a much larger project than I had originally thought it would be, but all the time that went into it was very well spent. I’ve been giving pineapples as gifts for years but this was my first big creative project. I had spent the month of November coming up with the concept and drawing up ideas and two weeks at the start of December in the testing phase. The problem with making pineapple centre pieces is that they needed to be fresh; I couldn’t go making them mid December and gifting rotten fruit. All the planning and testing would teach me the quickest and most efficient way to prepare my pineapples but it would all have to be done the night before. A lot of time and very long nights, but it was more than appreciated
My initial idea was to give the pineapples a frosted look by spraying the pineapples with spray in a can snow. It was going to be a messy job so I decided to make my own pineapple decoration station. Essentially just a box with one side cut off but it worked perfectly. Getting a little too much into the creative spirit I even decorated the door to my new decorating station. I hadn’t even properly begun the project and I was already thoroughly enjoying myself, revelling in my creativity
With the decoration station set up I got myself a few test subjects and went looking for the canned snow. It all sounded like a great idea but it didn’t really go the way I wanted. After searching over an hour to find the fake snow I discovered it didn’t go too well with the skin of the pineapple. It looked great at first, but it didn’t last long. The initial light frosted coating soon turned to a congealed mess. It gathered in clumps and refused to dry, not to mention the smell was terrible. It may have been something to do with the natural oils of the fruit or that the snow I purchased was cheap but it wasn’t working. It was slightly disheartening; however I did try out a lot of ideas for ribbon and bow configurations that worked wonderfully. I just had to figure out what to do with the snow.
Having left the snow covered pineapple over night I was hoping that it just needed more time. Sadly it was just as bad and the frosted pineapple look would have to be abandoned. I knew that I wanted to theme the pineapples festively so my next thought would be using gold and silver spray paints. I don’t know why gold and silver became associated with Christmas time for me, maybe its because I always write cards and tags using a metallic gold or silver pen. Maybe its because my mother would spray paint things in these colours for a festive twist when I was a child, but if fake snow wouldn’t work the spray paint was next to be tried.
A couple more test subjects, a few cans of paint and I was ready to go. It worked wonderfully; the paint coated the pineapple well catching contours well and shone over the fruits natural colours. The plan had now become spray the body one colour and the leaves another. The only drawback to this was it took a while to dry. I guess spray paint isn’t exactly designed for fresh fruit but it was doing the job I just needed to be patient. The ribbons looked even better with the new colour scheme and by the end of the day the plan was settled. I knew exactly what length of ribbon I needed, how to cut them, what bows to use where and what colours when with the gold or silver bodies. There was less than two weeks till Christmas Eve and I was to start properly decorating. Plenty of time to work on the gift tags.
Despite enjoying the company of the team at work I was closer to some than others. I wanted to write personal messages in the poems but the poetry was forced and read that way. I’m not saying the finished pieces were worthy of literary acclaim but the personal poems were hit and miss. Instead I decided to go with the simple theme of exotic Christmas. During my breaks at work I’d play with ideas, when I was relaxing at home I’d scribble ideas until I had a set I was happy with. Each pineapple would have its own poem, nothing too grand, no more than four lines, just enough to give it a special touch. The tags themselves took a little more thought. They needed to be big enough for the poems but not too big to take away from the pineapples. They also needed to be Christmassy. The easiest design would be a simple parcel, square card with ribbon stuck to them like a real parcel and a tied bow at the top. Some were more complex like a Christmas tree on a white stencil that I attached glittery card to in order to fill in colour. A few Santa hats and Snowmen and all the basic tropes were covered. Due to time I wouldn’t make them until the night before but I had plotted the dimensions needed for the tags and all the poems were set. The Twenty Third of December was now shaping up to be a very long night. The tags were all made and written within that same night. By the time I had finally finished I just wanted to go to sleep and never thought to take any photographs. A foolish mistake as I only realised after I’d attached them to the pineapples. I did however keep the notepad that had all the poems I’d written. In lieu of photographs I’ll just share the poems here.
With snow in a flurry
And shopping done in a hurry
I hope that you take time to relax
And have no gifts you’ll need to take back
Christmas time can be quite chaotic
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be exotic
Christmas time comes but once a year
So fill it with love and some exotic cheer
With the weather outside so frightful
I hope your Christmas is delightful
Being merry and joyful, cosy and warm
Hidden away from any oncoming storms
May Santa treat you well on this Merry Christmas Day
I heard your on his naughty list despite what you may say
Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la PINEAPPLE!!! La la la la
Tis the season to be jolly…
But if that fails try acting tropic-olly
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
Had a really really bad cold
He found it was cured with pineapples
Remember that this Christmas Day
Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good
He also know when your naughty and crude
So to help you behave this Christmas time
Here’s a pineapple and a merry rhyme
Christmas time is here
Pineapples and cheer
I hope its full of magic and delight
With enough food to sate Santa’s appetite
It may not be the greatest tradition
But it certainly beats played out repetition
So here’s a festive pineapple from me to you
Have a merry Christmas and a tropical one too
The year underneath the Christmas tree
There’ll be something exotic I guarantee
It may look odd but I promise you this
It works better than mistletoe if you’re seeking a kiss
The Twenty Third of December, painting day. I was working during the day but I had everything ready. Home, dinner, relax for just a moment and then to the proper work of the day. All twelve pineapples would be sprayed, taking care not to rush. The initial paint job took about an hour to do before I went over each of them again from first to last to do any necessary touch ups. Once I was happy all I had to do was let them dry. Now at this point I do have to advise anyone thinking of trying to do the same, don’t do it in a small room with the window closed. Yes that’s right; I went through at least four cans of spray paint with no ventilation, far too concerned with impressing my friends at work to consider my own health. I’m pretty sure I still have paint on in my lungs one year later. The rest of the night was dedicated to the gift tags. I started around 9pm and finished at 3am. I had spend so long designing the tags and coming up with the poems I’d left myself very little time to make them prior to this night. I knew exactly what I was doing and I wasn’t due to be at work until 1pm the following day so there was no pressure. It was a great night looking back, indulging my creativity with the 1992 Batman Animated Series as my background noise; although it was very messy. My hands were covered in paint and I was doing this all in my bedroom and the place ended up being covered in glitter. Me, the floor, the bed, there were particles in the air and probably a tonne in my lungs to join the paint from earlier. It was like someone had stabbed a pixie. Tags made, exhausted from a very full day I needed to get a few hours sleep and then get the ribbons and tags attached once the pineapples had dried.
Adorned with ribbons and pretty bows, twelve little pineapples were sat in a row. The last stages of decoration didn’t take very long. Took an hour to put everything together and attach the gift tags. I’d even gone out and bought individual gift bags just for that added special touch. On average with all the decoration materials I would say each finished pineapple cost me approximately £5 to £10 to craft. Multiply that by twelve and it’s no wonder everyone at work thought I was mad. Well, more mad than before. The pineapples however were perfect and ready to be delivered.
I don’t drive. I started to learn when I was eighteen but I ran out of money and never went back to it. The office I worked in required me to get three busses to get there. As you can imagine getting twelve decorated pineapples there without causing them any damage was quite the task. My mother helped out by providing the Star Wars reusable carrier bad from Tesco but I was on my own getting to work.
Christmas Eve traffic is a nightmare. Everyone is out doing last minute shopping and I was constantly held in traffic. The busses themselves were rather quiet so I had plenty of space to sit my bags of festive fruit, but the roads were slow. I left home an hour earlier than I was meant to in order to get to work so I could play Santa and still managed to be half an hour late for my shift. I learned a valuable lesson to never work an afternoon shift on Christmas Eve again. That’s why this year I sat cosy at home avoiding the dreadful weather considering whether or not to get dressed, its far more fun than being stuck in traffic. By the time I got to the office I found out that a few of the people on my team had been offered the chance to go home early. If I’m honest it annoyed me as I really wanted the whole team to receive one. I ended up with five spare but it turns out I had one more that I should have as I’d accidently included myself in the list of people to receive a gift. It turns out having a few spare was actually a great thing as the pineapples got a lot of attention from passersby in other teams in the office. Some of whom were genuinely lovely people who deserved to take advantage of my team member loss.
Everyone loved the pineapples. It was an odd idea that everyone seemed to love. My plan had already been revealed but when people started seeing all the work that had went into them they were shocked. Only for a moment until they remembered how eccentric I am. There were posts to Facebook showing off their exotic gifts, the only people who weren’t smiling were the ones who never received a pineapple of their own. I’m still not overly fond of the whole Secret Santa tradition in offices, but doing something a little different was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s just that little step up to show you care and in my case is an excuse to play with glitter. I don’t work in that office any more, I’ve no idea what I would have done to top myself this year. Instead this year I’m happy to sit back and remember the fun I had making them and the joy it brought to a group of people who deserved to be treated far better than they were.
Every Christmas Eve I’ll remember the exotic enchantment these pineapples brought. I don’t know if I’ll ever do something like this on the same scale, but I certainly won’t be giving up on gifting pineapples (If you’re curious about what made me choose pineapples, I’ve wrote a piece that answers the question why pineapples?). This was a special moment and I really hope it hasn’t been forgotten by the people who received them. I just wish they were able to be kept longer. They have a shelf life of just over a week and with all the paint they’re not really for eating. Someone tried, said if had an alcohol tang to it, I’m not really surprised. Regardless, as an escape from the perils of Secret Santa, I highly recommend doing something a little creative. Just not with pineapples of course, that’s my territory!