Holiday happenings

It’s Santa time. Here’s how it works.

By Tatiana Roy

featured image for story

Letters are arriving at Santa’s workshop from all over the country. Postal elves are busy reading and prepping them so they can be posted on USPSOperationSanta.com.

We are so excited — USPS Operation Santa is now open for registration and identity verification!

An illustration of a man looking at his phone with various identity requirement images in clouds over his head.

Why do I need to get my identity verified?

The Postal Service takes the privacy and security of the children and families who write to USPS Operation Santa very seriously. Our verification process reflects this. We know many customers were unable to participate last year because they couldn’t get verified. To help address this problem, we started working earlier this year on an in-person verification solution. We are thrilled to offer this option to potential adopters who want to participate and have trouble getting their identities verified online.

There are now three ID verification options available:

  1. Customers enter their name, address, mobile phone number and email address. If they cannot be verified, they move to the second option.
  2. Customers will be required to answer some basic multiple-choice questions. If they still cannot be verified, they will move to the third option.
  3. Customers will be instructed to go to a nearby Post Office location to have their identities validated in person. They will be provided a code in an email and will be instructed to bring an acceptable form of identification. They will also be given directions to the nearest participating Post Office location.

You are registered and verified. Now what?

On November 29, USPS Operation Santa opens for adoption. You can start reviewing letters and choose one to adopt. We have made several modifications to the website this year to improve the user experience.

Last year, letters were adopted very quickly! While adopters were reading letters, they disappeared without warning. Someone had just adopted the letter because they could review it at the same time. We know how frustrating that was. This year, when you choose a letter, it’s locked with you for up to five minutes. You will be told you have five minutes to adopt the letter or it will be put back in the system. There’s even a 2-minute warning to remind you.

We are also messaging users to refresh the site when reading letters. This helps ensure all available letters are displayed.

Advanced Notice!

One of the best improvements to the website is a countdown timer that informs potential adopters exactly when the next set of letters will be posted. No more guessing and having to check the website all day long. The timer will tell you exactly when new letters will be posted!

Letter to Santa with child’s drawing of Santa and a Christmas tree with gifts underneath.

Choosing the Perfect Letter

You want to choose a letter that touches your heart immediately but what if the only letter available is from a child wishing BIG!? Of course, you don’t need to fulfill their expensive requests. You can either adopt a letter that better suits your budget, or you can find an alternative way to make their holiday special. Whether they receive exactly what they asked for or not, just hearing back from Santa is a win for any child!

Ready to shop? Ready to ship?

You’ve picked the letter you want, what’s next? Go shopping! If you adopted a letter from a family or child who lives in a nearby state, your postage costs will be less than if you adopted a letter from across the country. The price of postage depends on various factors such as the shipping distance, the weight, and the length and girth of the package. Using Priority Flat Rate boxes is a good option to control shipping costs. Read our Shipping Guidelines for more information.

Picture of an open Priority box and hands putting gifts inside it.

Here’s a good tip to help keep your shipping costs down. Get a large Priority Mail Flat Rate box from your local Post Office and take it with you when you go shopping. Only purchase things that can fit in the box. Keep in mind, you can send up to six boxes to each letter writer. Consider a gift card in place of sending larger, heavier items. If you want to send just a gift card, it will need to be sent in a Priority Mail envelope, 4x6 or larger to accommodate the shipping label.

When you adopt a letter you will receive an email with instructions. The email will also have a QR code and an adoption packet. You will need to take the QR code and your adoption packet with you when you ship your gift at the Post Office.

Once your gift is shipped, you won’t receive any tracking information. The package is being sent anonymously and the letter writer’s address is private. However, you will receive notifications in your USPSOperationSanta.com profile that your package has shipped and is in transit.

We have updated the list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to make the experience easier for everyone involved. These FAQs can be found on the USPSOperationSanta.com website, or right here on usps.com/holidaynews.

Our goal is to have every letter sent to Santa’s workshop posted, adopted and fulfilled. We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday this season.

USPS Postmaster van illustration.