A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Readers Share Their Heartwarming Real-Life Secret Santa Stories

Santa's best-kept secret? He's got elves everywhere—and these sweet stories of holiday kindness prove it.

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Gloved hands cradling a gift box
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Moving stories of everyday holiday heroes

The holidays, admittedly, can get hectic. Getting a tree, planning Christmas parties, shopping for the kids’ Christmas presents—so much to do, so little time. However, it’s important to step back and remember that Christmas and the entire holiday season is a time to spread kindness and good cheer to all. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Need proof? Read these lovely tales of real-life Secret Santas who helped turn the holidays around for our readers. These true accounts of strangers stepping up could put even the grumpiest Scrooge in a good mood!

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Cooked rib roast
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I’d like to propose a roast

“Our entire household caught ­COVID-19 just a few days before Christmas. Amid the stress, I forgot that I’d already ordered a rib roast, tweaked to avoid any confusion with a standing order, for our holiday dinner. When the butcher called to tell us it was ready, I told him that, unfortunately, we’d caught ­COVID and couldn’t pick it up. He replied, ‘I’ll drop it off when I get off work. You shouldn’t be without Christmas dinner.’ The doorbell rang at 5:15 p.m. The roast was hanging on the doorknob. The butcher waved from the end of the driveway, and I asked how to pay. He said, ‘Merry Christmas. Just get better.'” —Victoria Sefranek, Bethlehem, PA

Envelope of cash
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Guardian angels

“It was my first Christmas as a ­newlywed and mother in Cadillac, Michigan. I had our Christmas shopping fund in cash in my pocket. But when I got to the register, it was gone. I retraced my steps and found two strangers standing guard over my bank envelope on the aisle floor. I guess the relief on my face was enough evidence it belonged to me. They walked away before I could thank them, but it’s been 51 years and I still remember their faces.” —Joanne Nichols, Niceville, FL 

Leather briefcase
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Earning his wings

“I was fresh out of college and had my first business trip on Dec. 26. That morning, I said goodbye to my visiting family and left for the airport—or tried. My car battery was zapped. It was pre-cellphone. My family had already left my new place, I didn’t know anyone in the area, and there were no cabs. It was my first real job. I was supposed to meet executives at the airport and board the corporate jet. Panicked, I started walking the 5 miles to the office. It was pitch black and snowing. I must’ve been a sight: a suit walking along a slushy road at 5:30 a.m., struggling with my luggage and briefcase. Before long, a motorist stopped and graciously offered me a ride. I made it to the airport on time, and laughter replaced my fear of ­getting fired as I shared the tale of my crazy morning with the happy­ ­outcome, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.” —Robert Owsiany, Canal Fulton, OH

Small Christmas tree with ornaments
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A forest of goodwill

“In my early 20s, I was poor and living alone, and desperately wanted a Christmas tree. The year before, I had done without. I went to the Lions Club lot and told them I had only $10, but did they have a little Charlie Brown tree I could buy? The wonderful man looked at me and said I could pick any tree I wanted. From then on, I always bought my trees from them.” —Dorothy Doughty, Carlsbad, CA 

Snow shovel with snow
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Clearing things up

“I had 16 inches of snow to clear just before Christmas. After struggling for nearly four hours, I was ready for a break. But there was still a 3-foot snowbank at the end of the driveway. As I mustered the energy to make an opening for the mail carrier, the city plow driver paused his route to clear it for me. I was cold, exhausted, and so thankful, I wanted to cry. This gentleman made a 60-year-old woman’s day. I chalk it up to the Christmas spirit.” —Laraine Bogosian, Waltham, MA

Credit card in payment terminal
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Points well-taken

“My husband and I were at checkout with a full cart of groceries just after Thanksgiving. Money was tight, and the bill was adding up. We started picking which items to put back. Suddenly, a woman appeared, begging us to let her pay. She said she needed the points on her credit card. She swiped, signed and disappeared. My husband, the cashier and I were all stunned. Moments earlier, we were worrying about how we would buy Christmas gifts for our grandkids. Now we had groceries and plenty of Christmas cash.” —Kirsten Moseley, Lisbon, ME

Latte art of a Christmas tree in a cup
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Ave, Grande, Venti, Trenta

“My father’s favorite song was ‘Ave Maria.’ He’d sing it every morning while he got ready for work. Last year, while I was shopping, I heard his song playing in a coffee shop. I automatically thought of my dad, who had passed years ago, and I got teary-eyed. When my coffee was ready, the barista handed it to me and said, ‘Merry Christmas. The person in front of you paid and asked me to deliver the message.'” —Connie Lightfoot, Cincinnati, OH

Candy canes and peppermint candies
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A class act

“One Christmas, I was buying gifts for my Sunday-school class: an angel-­ornament picture frame and some candy for each student. On the way to the register, I saw The Christmas Fox, a wonderful book to help kids (and adults) understand that it’s not what you bring, but that you come. I stopped in the aisle to count my cash and realized I was blocking a couple’s path. I apologized and explained, then moved over and resumed counting. I was short by a few dollars. As I debated whether I should buy the ornaments or the books, the woman gave me a handful of bills and told me to buy both. For me, Christmas is always sweeter because of the memory of this generous stranger.” —Kymberly Parker, Hackett, AR 

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest