Most of the letters are handwritten, while some are typed. They don’t ask for the same things, although there are recurring themes. Some are funny, some a little obnoxious, and some are very sad. But all of them start the exact same way: “Dear Santa.” After all, there is no other way to start a letter to Santa Claus.
Every year in New York the United States Postal Service runs its Operation Santa Claus. Children from across the country send letters to the North Pole, which the post office reroutes to one of their five Operation Santa centers here in the city. People can go to these centers, read some of the letters and pick out which one they want to respond to – with presents, of course.
Wednesday morning, at the center located on Eight Ave between 32nd and 33rd St, Christmas music played and a long table was set up on the right hand side with three volunteers ready to register people to the program. The rest of the room was filled with tables and chairs for people to sit down and browse through their letters. Cardboard cutouts of toys and elves and Christmas trees were glued on every wall. But none of the decorations could beat the Christmas spirit found in the letters.
“I think that Christmas is awesome and you can spend time with your family,” wrote Jaszmin before listing off some pricey gifts she wants this year. She also made sure to mention – like most of the other letters did – that she had been a “good girl” this year.
Politeness abounded in these letters, too. “I hope you and Mrs. Claus are well when you receive this,” wrote Jovan, 5, who also made sure to include a reference to Santa’s elves in his letter.
“I will like to tell you a little favor if there’s no problem,” wrote Rudy, 5. And Jaszim made sure to conclude her letter with a “thank you have a nice day.”
A lot of these letters seem to actually have been written by the parents, or at the very least extremely skilled 3 and 4 year olds. But one letter stands out from the pack. Eugenia, a mother of two, is one of the few adults who wrote a letter to Santa herself.
“My children go to nursery school and they are very smart and polite,” she wrote. “They are in need of clothing and I would also like for my children to get some games and educational toys. Thank you very much for all that you do Santa!”
A lot of the letters simply ask for clothes, because most of the letters come from inner city children. A lot of letters include the children’s shoe, shirt and pant sizes.
The most touching ones though are those that don’t ask for anything in particular. “Anything you send will make me happy,” wrote Jovan.
Rudy echoed the sentiment: “Whatever you want to give me I will be okay with it.”
The volunteer Santas sitting across the big hallway on this particular afternoon seemed enthralled by their letters. Some of them huddled together, reading letters to each other. Others sat alone, solemnly taking notes. And once in a while , you’ll see a tear or hear a laugh. Sometimes, it’s even both.
“My mother told me she doesn’t have any money to buy Christmas presents for me,” wrote Cashawn, 14. “Can you please help me by giving me a present. Thank you.”
And then, at the very bottom of the page, he wrote:
“Hint: a DSI.”