The Postal Service’s Letters to Santa program is celebrating 102 years of helping make children’s holiday wishes come true.
Although USPS began receiving letters to Santa Claus more than 102 years ago, its involvement was made official in 1912 when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized postal employees and citizens to respond to the letters.
Today, the popular holiday program is known nationwide as Letters to Santa. The exception is New York City, where the city’s own Operation Santa, the largest in the country, responds to more than 500,000 letters each year. Thousands of volunteers work with Post Offices to respond to letters from children of all ages listing their holiday wishes.
Once again this year, employees, members of the public, charitable organizations and corporations can help USPS respond to the letters at Post Offices around the country by participating in the Letters to Santa program.
New York City’s Operation Santa program is the largest public adoption Post Office in the country, receiving more than a half million letters a season. With that much Santa Mail it stands to reason they need the public’s help. Every year the iconic James A. Farley Building on Eighth Avenue is visited by tens of thousands of people who come to adopt letters. A kick-off celebration is held, usually during the first week of December. The New York City program has changed very little since the 1940s when it was first opened to the public and continues to thrive much to the delight of both the writers and readers of Letters to Santa.
Individual customers and representatives of organizations wanting to adopt a letter must come to a participating Operation Santa Post Office in person. Both individual customers and organizational representatives must fill out the proper PS Forms 6012 (organization), 6012-A (organization record of letter), or 6012-I (individual) and show identification before viewing any letters.
After completing the forms, you may then read and choose a letter(s). To protect the anonymity of the letter writers, all personal information will be blacked out in the letters you view — no last names, addresses or contact information of any kind will be visible.
Bring your selections to a postal clerk so the clerk can notate which letter(s) you will adopt.
Here is the fun part — you get to be Santa’s helper by fulfilling the wishes of the letter writer.
Once you have fulfilled the wish, you simply bring your wrapped gift(s) back to the same Operation Santa location to mail.
Individuals and organizations will be responsible for paying the postage to mail the gifts to the recipient.
Once you pay the postage, the postal clerks will match your box with the letter writer by using an internal numbering system.
The clerk takes the box and retrieves the original letter using the numbering system to create a mailing label.
The return address on the box will read "Operation Santa, North Pole."
USPS has a policy for “adopting” children’s letters to Santa that’s designed to protect their privacy. Individuals who would like to adopt letters are asked to do so in person, present valid photo identification and fill out a form that includes the list of letters they are adopting.
Here’s how it works. A person wishing to adopt a letter can go to a Post Office, select one or more letters to take with them and sign the form. The child’s address on the envelope will have been blocked out and the letter assigned a number.
After the individual fulfills the child’s wishes with a gift, he or she returns with the letter and gift to the same Post Office and pays the postage for the package. A postal employee will match the number on the letter with the child’s address, apply a label to it and put the package in the mail stream.
The Postal Service began receiving letters to Santa Claus more than 100 years ago.
In 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local postmasters to let employees and citizens respond to these letters. This 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.
Today, cities around the country have robust Letters to Santa programs with participation by recognized charitable organizations, major corporations, local businesses and postal employees making a big difference in the lives of children during the holiday from coast to coast.
This year we are officially celebrating the 102st anniversary of the Letters to Santa program, an annual tradition embraced by the U.S. Postal Service and public alike.
They were first established in 2006. Unfortunately, we live in an age where we must be careful about freely identifying the full names and addresses of children sending letters to Santa. Our goal is to protect the safety and privacy of children and their families while still allowing people to help them by fulfilling the wishes they express in their letters to Santa.
Individuals and organizations who would like to participate in the Letters to Santa program are now asked to come to their local participating Post Office, present ID and fill out a short informational form before receiving copies of original letters to Santa from children. These copies have last names and addresses blacked out.
We don’t think so. We continue to receive millions of letters to Santa from children nationwide.
No. Participation is voluntary. The decision to participate is made at the local level. If an office does participate, it follows the procedures we’ve established for the program. Most major metropolitan areas have active programs.
We believe the number is easily in the millions.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And the Postal Service can help you prove it when Santa replies to your child’s letter to Santa — complete with the North Pole Postmark!
NORTH POLE POSTMARK POSTMASTER
4141 POSTMARK DR
ANCHORAGE AK 99530-9998