For over a century, the United States Postal Service has run a program through which people can officially write letters to Santa Claus — and postal workers can read and respond. Known today as Operation Santa, this program has developed into a charity for underprivileged children to receive gifts from the North Pole — and it’s really not from their parents!
According to the USPS Operation Santa website, the idea for Operation Santa was first born in 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock opened up a mailroom for letters to Santa. At the time, only employees of the postal service were able to read them and respond, but by the 1940s, they received enough letters to warrant opening the program to the general public.
Before 2017, people had to go to their closest participating post office to physically pick up letters, but the USPS has since digitized the process. Now, anyone can simply go onto their website and browse through letters from children all over the country before choosing one (or up to 15) to “adopt.” The process has been so successful in making children happy that a documentary, “Dear Santa,” was made about it in 2020.
Everything you need to know is on the USPS Operation Santa website, complete with step-by-step instructions on submitting and adopting letters. Basically, people (yes, adults can participate as well) submit letters postmarked to the North Pole from around the country, and the USPS uploads them to their website. People can then browse for as long as they’d like until they find the right one (or up to 15) for them. Letters come with the sender’s first name and a return address, making it incredibly easy to sponsor someone’s holiday.
In the past, people could pick up letters in person, but with the digitizing process, the USPS didn’t want to lose the charm and personality of the letters. Now, though it’s fully online, you actually get to see scanned-in versions of the letters, complete with the kids’ handwriting!
Are you ready to take part in Operation Santa? Don’t worry, it’s not too late to join in the gift-giving spirit — the last day to bring packages to your local participating post office is Dec. 18. Be sure to spread the word — and holiday cheer — this season and tag us, @VALLEYmag, on Instagram with your Operation Santa experience!