The tradition of writing letters to Santa Claus started when Charlie Green had kids in town drop letters in a box in his shop. His wife, Verna Green started answering them and she had kept doing so for up to 30 years. But do you know what happens to the letters kids send to Santa through USPS?
The United States Postal Service or USPS used to burn letters addressed to “Santa.” Today, several non-profit organizations respond to children’s letters on Santa’s behalf.
How Did The United States Postal Services Deal with the Santa Letters?
According to Nancy Pope, curator of postal history at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington DC, before the establishment of the United States Post Office in 1775, American children would burn their letters to Santa, believing that the ashes would rise and reach him.
Hundreds of thousands of children from all over the world continue to send their Christmas wish lists to Santa using old-fashioned snail mail, despite the advent of more modern communications such as email and texting. Surprisingly, many of those letters are responded to.
To deal with the annual deluge, the United States Postal Service, Santa’s primary ghostwriter, established Operation Santa in the early twentieth century, which allowed postmasters to respond to the letters. Today, children have taken a more modern approach and email Santa instead. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)
How Did Santa Claus Get Popular?
In an illustration commissioned by the New York Historical Society in 1810, Santa was first shown in print in the United States. According to Alex Palmer, author of The Santa Claus Man, Santa was more of a moralist distributing words to live by than a present-bringing capitalist during the early 19th-century time.
When Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast created an iconic image of Santa Claus at his desk piled high with letters from the parents of naughty and nice children in 1871, Santa went viral. According to Palmer, Nast popularized the idea that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole. Nast created an illustration of a child mailing a letter to Santa in 1879.
The Nast cartoons sparked the nation’s imagination, and the Postal Service quickly became the vehicle for children’s most heartfelt Christmas wishes. The Postal Service was not exactly prepared for the task. (Source: National Geographic)
How Many Letters are Being Sent to Santa Claus These Days?
Every year, the New York Post Office alone receives approximately 500,000 letters. Some of the letters were digitized this year and posted on delivercheer.com, which allows volunteers to select letters online.
Annually, the 200 or so volunteer elves at the Santa Claus Museum in Indiana respond to approximately 20,000 letters, some of which are mailed and some of which are written onsite at the nonprofit museum. Parents or other adults can also print out Santa letter templates at home.
We make every effort to respond to all letters. Unfortunately, due to the volume of requests, it is simply not possible.Darleen Reid-Demeo, Author at Postal Posts
(Source: Smithsonian Magazine)