If you or your child have ever slid a letter to Santa into the US Postal Service, you might be wondering what the service does with all of these letters. There must be thousands every year, so where do they go? The answer is, USPS collects them all up and, with the help of charities and individuals, answers as many as possible!
USPS will collect up the letters that are marked for Santa at the North Pole, and process them. It used to do this alone, but when volumes got too great, the company enlisted charities, businesses, and volunteers to help out and get as many letters answered as possible. USPS even has a special address for you to post letters to!
How Can We Send A Letter To Santa?
If you want to send a letter to Santa with your child or even just for yourself, it’s very easy to do this. You can address letters to:
123 Elf Road
North Pole 88888
You should make sure that you put a nice, clear return address on the envelope, in the top left hand corner. This ensures that USPS knows who to respond to, otherwise they cannot answer the letter.
Use your full address, including an apartment number if applicable. It is important for them to be able to see this if you would like a response. If you’re concerned about privacy, read further down in this article to see how USPS handles private information and protects children.
Do I Need To Add A Stamp?
Yes, your letter will need a stamp. It should be a first class postage stamp, fixed to the upper right hand corner of your envelope. Do not send the letter without a stamp, or the mailing service may not be able to process it correctly, and it will not end up in the right place.
Although your letter is not traveling to the North Pole, it is still traveling and therefore needs to be paid for if it is going to reach the correct destination. USPS still has a cost in sending out mailmen to collect these letters, transport them, and deliver them to the organizations that process them, and therefore a stamp is required.
What Happens Next?
Once your letter is in the system, USPS will filter it out from the normal mail, and then one of two things can happen to it. It will either be dealt with by Operation Santa, or Letters from Santa. How you send it will determine how it gets handled.
Operation Santa is how USPS deals with many of the letters that are sent to them. These letters will be passed to organizations and members of the public, who can write responses. Many charities and even commercial entities take on letters and the responsibility of replying to these.
Some people choose to respond to the gifts that the child requests inside the letter, and will mail a gift to them as well as their reply from Santa. Many volunteers enjoy doing this, as it gives them the opportunity to spread some Christmas cheer.
Operation Santa was originally all done by passing out the physical letters, but in 2017, it began trialing an online version in seven cities. It then expanded this to nationwide in 2020, so anyone in the US who is registered with the service can browse through the letters online and select which one(s) they would like to reply to.
They can still purchase a gift, and then bring their gift and reply letter to a post office so that they can be posted back to the child. It is a good idea for people to check which the participating post offices are before taking on letters, as not all post offices are involved in the program.
This is a lovely system for ensuring that children receive letters and even gifts that apparently come from the magic of Santa Claus.
However, if you want to make sure that the letter that comes back from “Santa” comes from you and says what you would like it to, your best option is to participate in the Letter from Santa service – so keep reading.
Letter From Santa
If you want USPS to help you deliver a letter from Santa, you will need to mail both the letter to Santa and your response at the same time. It’s important to follow these steps to ensure that the letter is handled correctly, so read carefully.
Once the child you wish to respond to has written their letter, help them put it in an envelope and address it to Santa Claus, North Pole.
You should then write your response, including the signature “From Santa.” Make sure your response is complete and you are happy with it, and then put your letter and the envelope containing the child’s letter into a second envelope.
Address the second envelope to the child, using their real address. Put a return address of Santa, North Pole, on the second envelope.
Stick a first class stamp to this second envelope so that it can be mailed back to the child. Do not forget this!
You should now have an envelope addressed to the child just as though you were sending them a letter, but it will also contain their letter to Santa.
Next, place the whole thing in a bigger envelope, and add the correct postage stamps. This should be addressed to:
North Pole Postmark
4141 Postmark Dr
Anchorage AK 99530-9998
Make sure you use the correct address, because if you just put “North Pole,” it will not go to the correct place, and will instead end up in the Operation Santa program. Although the child may still get a response, it might not be your response.
Once your Letter from Santa arrives in Anchorage, it will be sorted, and a cute North Pole postmark will be added. Your letter will then be mailed to the child, and they will get a letter from Santa – you!
How Does USPS Handle Privacy For Operation Santa?
It’s important to make sure that children are protected at all times, and you might be concerned about someone else reading a letter from your child, especially if they talk about themselves – as they may want to do when talking to Santa.
Fortunately, USPS has thought hard about this and works to always protect the privacy of the participants, including those who send the letters from Santa. Letters have all personal information removed, and identifying details will be cut too. Last names, communities, locations, addresses, and all contact information is kept secret.
Those who send letters, known as adopters, will also have all personal information removed. This keeps the Santa magic intact, and ensures everyone involved in the program is protected.
How Do I Adopt A Letter?
If you are keen to get involved with this operation and help a child to feel happy for Christmas, you need to register yourself for Operation Santa on the USPS website. Letters become available for adoption from November 29th, and you must register and have your identity verified before you can adopt one.
Once you have registered and been verified on USPS’s system, you can start choosing letters to adopt.
How Many Packages Can I Send?
You can send up to six boxes per individual adoption letter, so if you are feeling generous and your lucky recipient has asked for several items, you can fulfill their wishes. Remember, however, that you must pay the postage; USPS does not cover this.
How Many Letters Can I Adopt?
Each individual may adopt up to fifteen letters, but no more. If you wish to adopt more, you will have to get your spouse or another adult to register and fulfill this on your behalf.
Why Are No Letters Appearing On The Site?
Letters are not posted until the 29th of November each year. If no letters are appearing on the site, it is likely because they have already been adopted; this is a very popular program and people are quick to take on letters.
Make sure you keep checking back, and be patient. Each letter requires quite a lot of processing. Staff members must open, read, code, copy, process, and post the letters before they can appear on the site, and there are thousands of letters to get through each year.
This will be done right up until December 22nd, and you can adopt letters throughout December. Remember, however, that you need to leave enough time to mail your response and any package that you choose to send – although they don’t have to arrive before Christmas.
How Do I Mail My Parcels?
You aren’t given the child’s address, so you might be wondering how you can reply to them. Removing the address is an important part of privacy, but it makes the process more complicated.
You will be emailed a QR code with the encrypted information that tells the post office who your recipient is, and you should take this when you go to mail your gifts. The postal worker who handles the parcel will scan this code.
They can then print the address label and will apply it to the package without showing it to you. Do not ask to see it; while many people would love to learn more about the child that they send their gift to, anonymity is a must for this system to remain safe for children.
What Shipping Services Can I Use?
You must use the Priority Mail service to ship your parcels. This is encoded into the QR code and you do not have other shipping options. You will be given a postage cost based on the shipping distance and the size and weight of your package.
You may wish to use Priority Flat Rate boxes to ensure that the shipping does not get too expensive, since you don’t know where in the US it will be traveling to.
What If It’s Past Christmas?
If you don’t get a letter until late, you might be panicking about whether you can get the gift out in time. Don’t! You can mail gifts through this program up until the 14th of January. The child won’t mind if Santa’s magic comes a little late, and indeed, most kids will love getting an extra gift after Christmas!
When Did USPS Start Answering Letters To Santa?
USPS has been answering children’s letters to Santa since 1912, when the Postmaster General, Frank Hitchcock, authorized this. He encouraged postal workers and members of the public to start answering children’s letters, and over 100 years later, this is still being done. The service has grown so big, however, that now corporations and charities are involved too.
Can Adults Send Letters Too?
There is no embarrassment in an adult sending a letter to Santa at this time of the year. Too many adults feel that Christmas is only for children and that they can’t enjoy it too, and that’s absolutely not the case.
Operation Santa is meant for everyone to enjoy, and every year, the postal service receives thousands of letters from adults as well as children. Don’t be ashamed, but embrace your sense of magic and get writing. You can both send letters and answer them, bringing magic in both directions!
There is a lot to do at Christmas, and staying at home waiting for a parcel probably isn’t top of your priority list – but it’s just the sort of time when you might need to, especially if you shop online.
A Virtual Mailbox service is a great solution to this, because it lets mail services deliver your packages securely whether you are at home or not.
You can then pick up your parcels at a time that is convenient to you, rather than having to hang around at home. This makes Christmas just a little easier for you, freeing up time for the other important tasks that need to be done to keep this holiday special.