USPS Operation Santa®

Each year, hundreds of thousands of letters sent to Santa from children and families arrive at Post Offices around the country. Most letters ask for toys and games. Some ask for basic necessities. Some ask for help for themselves and their loved ones.

USPS Operation Santa makes it possible for individuals and organizations to adopt these letters and send responses and thoughtful gifts in Santa’s place.

Operation Santa - printable fact sheet
Printable holiday coloring page

USPS Operation Santa logo

Digital program


This year, letters sent to Santa from the 17 cities below will be included on the website.

  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL*
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Denver, CO
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Hatteras Island, NC
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY*
  • Ocracoke Island, NC
  • Orlando, FL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Juan, PR
  • Washington, DC

*Customers in New York City and Chicago have a choice of browsing and adopting letters online or in-person.

How to send letters to the digital program

Customers in the above listed locations who wish to write letters to the digital program should address their letters as follows:

  1. Santa’s mailing address should be placed in the middle of the envelope. Please be sure to use this exact address:
    123 ELF ROARD
    NORTH POLE, 88888
  2. Write your full name and address in the upper left corner.
  3. Then, apply a first-class stamp in the upper right.

All letters should be postmarked by December 14, though the sooner your letter is received, the more likely it is to be answered. More details for writing letters to the USPS Operation Santa program can be found here.

A letter addressed to the USPS Operation Santa address with a return address at the top-left and a stamp on the top-right

In-person process

After completing the forms, customers can read and adopt a letter — or letters. To protect the anonymity of the letter writers, all personal information is redacted — no last names, addresses or contact information of any kind are visible.

The customer leaves to fulfill the wish in the letter and returns with the letter to ship the package. The code on the letter links to the letter writer’s address.

Customers are responsible for paying the postage to mail the gift to the letter writer.

Once the customer pays the postage, the retail associate will match the box with the letter writer by using the code.

New York City’s USPS Operation Santa program is the largest in the country. It’s a “Big Apple” tradition that has changed very little since the 1940s and one that continues to thrive in the heart of Manhattan, much to the delight of those who visit the iconic James A. Farley building.

USPS Operation Santa FAQ

What is the origin of Operation Santa?

The Postal Service — then the Post Office Department — began receiving letters to Santa Claus more than 100 years ago. In 1912 Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local Postmasters to allow postal employees and citizens to respond to the letters — a program that eventually became known as Operation Santa.

In the 1940s, mail volume for Santa increased so much that the Postal Service invited charitable organizations and corporations to participate by providing written responses and small gifts.

Through the years, the program grew and took on a life of its own. Today, customers can go online to browse through the letters and if one touches them, they can adopt it and help the child have a magical holiday.

What is the program’s mission?

The mission of USPS Operation Santa is to provide a channel where people can give back and help children and families — enabling them to have a magical holiday when they otherwise might not — one letter to Santa at a time.

What We Do

In many Postal Service facilities around the country, postal employees respond to the letters with a handwritten response signed by Santa, while other offices might purchase gifts for the children.

Do all letters addressed to Santa Claus go to the North Pole?

No. Only letters addressed to a specific North Pole address — complete with correct ZIP Code — are sent there. The vast majority of letters for Santa Claus are addressed “Santa Claus, North Pole” or just simply “Santa” — these letters are processed just like all the other letters, but because they do not have a complete address, the Postal Service mail sorting equipment processes them into a default area. The default letters are then sorted — mail that might have been incorrectly addressed is taken one place and the Santa letters to another place.

How many letters do you get each year?

It’s difficult to provide an exact figure because technically this is considered undeliverable as addressed mail.

How many kids and families has this program helped?


How does USPS protect the privacy of those who write to Santa?

In 2006, national policy guidelines were created regarding the handling and adoption of letters addressed to Santa. These guidelines were designed to protect the children who wrote to Santa and mandated that individuals wishing to adopt letters must do so in person, present valid photo identification and fill out a form that includes the list of letters being adopted.

In 2009, the Postal Service changed the letter adoption process by redacting or blacking out all references to the child’s address and assigning the letter a number. Individuals interested in adopting letters go to the Post Office, select the letter(s) and sign an official form. When the person has fulfilled the child’s wishes, they return to the same Post Office with the letter and/or gift for mailing. A postal employee weighs the package and the individual pays for the postage, or a Priority Mail Flat Rate box can be used. Then the postal employee matches the number on the letter with the child’s address, prints and applies a label to the package, and readies it for delivery. The individual never has access to the mailing address.

Customers choosing to adopt letters online will be required to go through a short registration and ID verification process.

USPS Postmaster van