Twitter shares holiday spirit

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012
Sam Elton-Walters
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ

SANTA SAM: Sam Elton-Walters is New Zealand’s own Santa Claus, organising a nationwide secret santa on Twitter.

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A "crazy, hairy, pumpkin grower from Hamilton" has started a nationwide movement to spread Christmas cheer via Twitter.

Sam Elton-Walters started New Zealand Secret Santa in 2010 with more than 400 people shipping their $5 gifts to strangers around the country.

In 2011, the number of people rose to 750, and this year more than 500 people had signed up after just 24 hours, with more expected by the time registrations close at the end of this month.

Twitter users register their user name, real name and address.

Sam then "jumbles" the names and sends the addresses randomly around the country, and the gift-giving begins.

"Then there's a thing that everyone's termed ‘twitter stalking'. A lot of people actually want to give a personalised gift, not just go out and get a box of chocolates. So they'll go on their Twitter and see what they like," he said.

He has been approached by people wanting to take over the secret Santa, but overwhelming response from his Twitter followers meant he had to decline.

"I asked them and I got a hundred messages in two minutes all saying, ‘nah we do it because it's homegrown and it's you, the crazy hairy pumpkin grower from Hamilton'. But I like keeping it local, I like the Kiwi thing."

There are risks, he said, and there have been small groups of people each year who have not received a gift, but "the risk is part of it", and he does his best to personally chase people up.

He has even assembled a Twitter team, including a secret Santa elf to help field questions and follow up with people, a spreadsheet whiz and a website proof-reader.

This year, the secret Santa price limit is up to $10 but Sam reassures people they don't have to spend that much, and they don't have to stop at that.

"You don't have to go out and buy something. Make something. And if you want to spend more than $10, that's up to you," he said. "People are just really blown away with some of the stuff they get. I've had a few people who have said that the stuff they got made them cry or changed their lives."

To sign up, see nzsecretsanta.co.nz and use the official hashtag #nzsecretsanta.

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- Waikato Times

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