The Postal Service began receiving letters to Santa Claus more than 100 years ago. In the early days the mail was answered by volunteer postal employees who wrote back to the children with a note or card. Year after year the amount of letters written to Santa continued to grow making responding to every letter more of a challenge. Mail addressed to Santa grew so much so that in 1912, then Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local Postmasters to allow citizens to respond to letters in the program that became known as Operation Santa.
Over the decades, the Operation Santa program has taken on a life of its own. Today, many cities around the country have hugely successful programs that work with recognized charitable organizations, major corporations, local businesses and individuals to make a difference in the lives of children from coast to coast.
What We Do
Currently, there are Operation Santa programs all around the country that vary as much as the locations themselves. Most letters are still quietly answered by our own employees who respond with a carefully crafted letter as if penned by Santa himself. Other Post Offices work with local schools to write letters back to the children, still others work with established groups and assist with the collection of gifts, while others invite the public to read and respond to Santa’s mail.
New York City’s Operation Santa program is the largest in the country and receives more than a half-million letters each year. Throughout the season, the iconic James A. Farley Building on 8th Avenue hosts thousands of secret Santas who visit the Post Office in person to read and adopt letters. To officially open the program they host an Operation Santa Kick-off which this year will take place on Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. So if you happen to be in New York on that day please join us, it’s open to the public and always a joyful event.
Did You Know
• Hundreds of thousands of children’s letters have been answered since the program’s inception, more than a hundred years ago.
• Last year, thousands of letters were answered by Secret Santa’s at Operation Santa in New York City, while many more thousand were answered at Operation Santa sites across the country.
The Postal Service believes in protecting children’s privacy and has a policy for “adopting” letters addressed to Santa. All addresses and personal information are redacted before the letters are provided to the public. Letters are then assigned a number and made available for public viewing.
Customers who would like to read and adopt letters are asked to do so in person, present valid photo identification and fill out a form that we keep on file for one year. We also keep a computerized list of all who have read and adopted letters for the protection of all who write to Santa. After all this is official U.S. Mail, and is treated as such even if it’s addressed to Santa.
Secret Santas may respond in writing or actually fulfill the child’s wishes with a gift; it’s completely up to the Santa! However each response (letter or gift) must be returned to the same Post Office and the postage must be paid to mail the response back to the child. A Postal Service employee will match the number on the letter with the child’s address from our Operation Santa database, apply a label and send the package to its final destination.
It’s a volunteer program so not all Post Offices participate in Operation Santa and locations vary year to year. During holiday time check usps.com to see a complete listing of the Operation Santa locations open to the public.