I always look forward to Winter Bash. This year it feels really hard to get any hats.

And because of this I kind of quit giving it much thought after a few days. That's a shame because it takes a lot of time to come up with all that stuff for us!

Is it just me or are Winter Bash hats too hard to get this year?

  • Here's the hat list if that helps. There's a few which you might find easy to get with a little bit of work - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/319838/…
    – CalvT
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 11:13
  • You mean secret, or ordinary hats? There's a very big difference. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 11:43
  • 1
    Anyway, I have 10 hats, some secret, all gained without trying even a bit. I just did what I do every day on MSE. So, don't think they made it any harder this year. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 11:44
  • 1
    @ShadowWizard: For a lot of secret hats is is still unclear how to get those. But by the description of the normal hats is seems harder to get them this year.
    – juergen d
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 12:25
  • I see. Can you give examples then? Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 12:25
  • 4
    Hint: one more downvote and you'll get yourself a secret hat. Well played :)
    – Eran
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 13:02

9 Answers 9


The problem with Winter Bash hats unlock trigger is still the same, year after year.

Many triggers are balanced having Stack Overflow numbers and traffic in mind.

Earn 150 reps in 15 days? On Sharepoint, top users earn an average of 25 rep in a week.
Close, edit and reopen question? A lot easier, if you can do it single handed. And even then... you need something to close and edit in the first place.
Vote 150 times? Yep, this would "increase traffic", but on some minor sites this is also just asking me to go on a random vote spree.
Accepted answer with no votes? Easy for me to answer and don't get any vote, but to have the few users there actually return to accept...
20 reviews with no fail? Good luck getting to 20 reviews in the first place.

As you can probably see, many hats have triggers that are in favor to high-traffic sites where getting things to do is easier. But to be fair, things have always been that way, so I wouldn't say this pattern is really specific to this year.

So, what is different then? I don't know. I, for one, don't really thing hats are any harder to get this year. As usual, I have some hats that were easy to get, some that I had to work a little for and some that I simply know aren't worth the effort (or even possible for me to unlock).

That said, I would say that I also noticed something similar to your claim: "quitting" after one or two days. I have noticed that every year there is a big talk about "hats" a few weeks before the event starts, then the "fire" douses a few days into the event.

I have tried to look for a cause, but I couldn't find any. I have only hypothesis, so read on only if you are interested in "guessing".

To me, the problem is a mix of two factors:

  • Too high expectations: every years users expect something big, new and different from the past years. Yet, hats triggers haven't really changed and are usually built around the same things: votes, comments, badges etc. If you noticed, this year "Knit a pattern" feature got more attention than actual hats.
  • Hats are no longer "new": yep, it is a funny year end event, but by now many users have lived thru multiple Bashes... They know that the hats are here to stay just for 2-3 weeks and are starting to get tired. Recycled hats only increase the felling of "already seen, already done".

Combining this two elements is probably enough to "bore" out some users that aren't really that much into "awards collecting".

Let's consider Bartle taxonomy of players types:

enter image description here

How this applies to hats?

  • Killers enjoy climbing the leaderboard, to show off they are better and have more hats than others. In the past days, they also were the ones that enjoyed the most hats like Eureka, since those by definition could be got only by a limited number of users.
  • Achievers still want to get hats, but they only want to get hats for the simple enjoyment of doing so. As soon as they "empty" the pool of hats that are available to them (see above: due to the different sites traffic some hats could be impossible for them to get) they get bored and move to something else.
  • Socializers probably have more fun trying to collaborate in order to find the triggers to secret hats. Every year they congregate to a "Winter Bash" room on the chat sites and lurks there, posting guess and making jokes. Their problem is that as the secret hats triggers are discovered they get less and less topics to discuss.
  • Explorers are similar to Achievers in a way, but they are the ones that enjoys seeing a new hat design even more than getting the actual hat. By extension, they also like searching for easter eggs and similar things. Obviously, if there aren't eggs to find and if the hats have reused designs they rapidly lose interest in the event.

In conclusion, I wouldn't say that people are quitting the event because the event is harder this year. In my opinion the problem is that users are less interested because they are starting to find the event less funny, be it for "repeated exposure" or because of the other issues I tried to analyze before. Saddly, I don't have a solution to this problem: personally, I have just been trying to fill the gaps with my own imagination. I know this isn't really an advice that anyone will be willing to follow, but perhaps.. to enjoy the event more.. try to see it thru the eyes of a child. Try to just have fun knitting patterns on the Winter Bash sites. Create silly submissions for the yearly swag. Post random jokes about the reason the chicken isn't anywhere to be found this year (personally I still think balpha has eaten it).

In the end this is just a game. So, to enjoy it at the best, go out there and play.

  • 2
    We had delayed "easy" hats in the past Winter Bashes (participation on a particular day for instance). Now all the easy ones are collected ... Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 18:24

By design, some are really easy to get (I saw you were wearing Retro Fan, which is one of them); e.g. Team Player only requires you to visit a single page. Others are really hard to get, like Red Baron. There's even one I can't get at all. It's the same as with badges; you could say that there are 'bronze', 'silver' and 'golden' hats.

I'm sure somebody will pull some numbers about how many hats have been earned this year, after the end of Winter Bash. Example from Winter Bash 2016. Only then we'll know if it was really harder this year.

P.S. this question has earned you a secret Sun Wukong hat!


Personally, I wouldn't say that this year's Winter Bash is exceptionally difficult. While some of them require some effort, a majority of the hats are obtainable through normal actions.

That being said, there are indeed hats that require much more effort (and luck) than others to obtain, such as Scarf Ace (earn a Guru badge), Rep Hunter (5 accepts in a single day) and of course, Red Baron.

I would consider truly difficult hats to be those that are mainly based on luck (which I'm not a big fan of). That would include some of last year's hats.

  • Fashionable (combined total of 9000 views on own questions)
    • You could only get the hat if you ask a lot of questions and hope some of them get into the HNQs list.
  • Universe Brain (obtain Great Answer badge)
    • Obviously, this's easy if you had an answer with close to 100 votes before Winter Bash started.
  • Waffles
    • Known as Red Baron in some years; you'll basically need your answer to make a terrible question look decent.

Other than these exceptionally difficult hats, I can confidently say that a majority of hats every year are quite obtainable and I hope that hats in future Winter Bashes can be based on normal user actions as much as possible.


Id say that some of them are dead simple!

The retro fan and tophat are good examples of that! But we have almost a month to collect hats, and if it were too easy you'd already be bored of them for that reason too!


I don't find this Winter Bash particularly hard. I got really a lot of hats right now, some of which I didn't expect (Gurus are rare on my main site, but a hot network question made it for me).

But I am really missing one of the date related hats; Winter Bash used to have one earlier on than this year.


Super hard? No. Harder than before? Definitely.

In 2016, there were six non-site-specific "very easy" hats, ones where a single action on your part causes the immediate reward of a hat: Where in the World, I Am Your Father, Mmmm Bacon, Bûche de Noël, Epiphany, I Have A Little Dreidel. In addition, Abominable and Just Here for the Hat involve a single action on your part is quite likely to result in getting a hat.

In 2017, there were four "very easy" hats: Ooh, Shiny!, Row Of Many Candles, Some Kind Of Sun Thingy, Red Hat With White Fur Trim. Additionally, you were quite likely to pick up And YOU Get A Hat!.

In 2018, there are two known "very easy" hats: Retro Fan, Rubber Ducky. You can probably also pick up Top(bar) Hat with very little work.

The lack of "participate on this day" hats is probably what's giving the impression that Winter Bash is so hard this year.


I can see you getting a few extra hats easily - do reviews to get the peacekeeper hat and join a new site for the still fresh hat. That gets you to 6. Swap hats once a day for the it ain't easy being cheesy hat.

Some of the others are trickier - some of the secret hats are easy for example, assuming you can find the triggers.


This was my first Winter Bash, and it wasn't too hard to earn 11 hats.

That being said, new users like me are unlikely to earn hats that require large amounts of reputation or very high-scoring posts. For example, the Scarf Ace hat requires an accepted answer with a score of 40 or more! Not that the hurdle stops me from trying. ;-) In fact, it's giving me a chance to have fun while aiming high!

  • 1
    Mine too, earning 19 hats :-) Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 10:58

Maybe this year is harder than last, but earning 17 hats, it's kinda easy, if you try, so there are couple of easy hats:

  • Top(bar) hat

  • Team Player hat

and some more...

So note that Red Baron is the hardest hat to earn.

answer a question scoring -3 or lower; the question eventually becomes 3+ and your answer becomes 5+

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