Letter-writing is fast becoming a lost art, and we’ve lost a bit of graciousness along the way, haven’t we? By “letter-writing,” we’re talking about sitting down with a card or a piece of paper and a writing instrument, an envelope and a stamp, and actually writing out a few (or a great many) lines, expressing whatever needs to be expressed.
There’s no denying that sending a text—especially a text consisting of an emoticon—is faster, easier, and more ecologically sustainable. Yeah, okay, we get it.
But this time of year, there’s one message that requires us to go old school: getting word to Santa.
For the past 111 years, USPS Operation Santa has made holiday wishes come true. Perhaps the magic could be conducted digitally, but for now, the arcane process described above is still how it’s done. It’s quite simple, really. Hopefuls write letters to Santa, listing precisely what they’d love to discover in their Christmas stocking or under the tree on Christmas morning. The Postal Service reviews and posts the letters, and kind-hearted souls anonymously provide the requested gifts in response, either individually or in teams. The gifts then are shipped and delivered to the letter-writers on behalf of the North Pole (note that you, as a letter adopter, will pay for shipping your gift).
Letters are accepted from anywhere in the USA, and letters can be adopted by anyone registered with an online account. There is no age limit for letter writers, and of course, parents may write letters for young children.
However, there are rules because Santa is not an anarchist. Letters submitted must include first and last names and a complete return address: street address, apartment number if applicable, city, state, and ZIP code. If the letter is missing these elements, it cannot be uploaded. Every letter requires a first-class stamp.
Letters must be legible—perhaps challenging to a generation that has grown up without learning cursive –and should include specific request details, including game and book titles, clothing and shoe sizes, color choice, etc. After all, Santa’s not a mind-reader, and he’s not getting any younger, so make the process easy for the old guy. Your letter must be addressed to:
123 ELF ROAD
NORTH POLE 88888
The USPS has accepted letters to Santa since September 18, a date worth remembering for next year. Operation Santa participants were invited to create and verify an account in early November, and adoptions began November 20. The last day to postmark letters to Santa will be Monday, December 11, while the last call for adopters – meaning the last day to adopt a letter and ship your gift– is Monday, December 18.
According to the USPS Operation Santa website, not everything is suitable as a gift. There’s a weight restriction: no more than 70 pounds (!). For large, heavy items, consider a gift card. If you just want to send a gift card, it must be sent in a Priority Mail envelope, 4” x 6” or larger, to accommodate the shipping label.
If you’re the one adopting a letter (or more than one), bust out a box of Kleenex before you start scrolling through the requests on the USPS Web site.
Cash and checks are not accepted because all gifting is attributed to St. Nick, not you. The same reasoning applies when addressing and wrapping gifts; don’t sign your name or include any tag, card, or note identifying yourself. Check the Web site for complete packaging and shipping details.
Note that many common household and consumer products are unsafe to ship via consumer mail and, therefore, aren’t suitable as gifts within this program. This is because these items when shaken around in Santa’s sleigh and exposed to temperature or pressure changes en route from the North Pole, may become dangerous, even though they’re safe to use in your home.
Though desirable, electronic skateboards, scooters, e-bikes, fireworks, sparklers and perfumes are prohibited. If you’re sending an electronic device, the batteries must be installed prior to packing and shipping. Err on the side of caution by reading the complete breakdown of restrictions.
If you’re the one adopting a letter (or more than one), bust out a box of Kleenex before you start scrolling through the requests on the USPS Web site. Some of the requests are high-end, like a PlayStation, an XBox 1, a pet horse, an iPad, a pair of air-pods, a pair of Air Jordan Retros or an iPhone.
A 15-year-old letter-writer named Granville, G-3 for short, notes, “It don’t have to be a iPhone15 (sic).”
Other requests are heart-wrenchingly humble, including this from Charlene in Indiana, who asks, “This year I have been very sick. My wishes for Christmas are to be healed,” or the mother who asks nothing for herself but explains that she had a stroke in 2023: she requests shoes for each of her six children.
Humility and innocence are the quintessence, the X-factor that gives reindeer the ability to defy gravity and go airborne. The identities of the gift-givers are never revealed to the recipients, including recipients who are old enough to know better, like the 34-year-old small business owner who requests a new office printer.
Materialism and cynicism, after all, impair reindeer flight.
To register and create an account so that you may write a letter to Santa or adopt a posted request, visit www.USPSOperationSanta.com.