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. 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.
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.
This year, letters sent to Santa from the 15 cities below will be included on the USPSOperationSanta.com website.
•Grand Rapids, MI
•Los Angeles, CA
•New York, NY*
•San Juan, PR
Customers choosing to adopt in person will be required to fill out a form and show valid state or federal ID. Customers choosing to adopt online will be required to go through a short registration and ID verification 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. Only letters addressed to a specific North Pole address will go to the North Pole — 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.