In years past, the Grinch, blinding snowstorms and a bad cold almost kept kids from having a Merry Christmas. This year, however, the United States Postal Service (USPS) looked like it was ready to steal the Christmas Spirit from thousands of children. According to the Associated Press, the Postal Service briefly considered putting a halt to the popular “Operation Santa” program that first began in 1954.
“Operation Santa” is a volunteer organization
Starting as a volunteer program in North Pole, AK, volunteers have opened and answered letters from children to Santa for decades, even those simply addressed to “Santa Claus, c/o The North Pole.” Through the years, satellite letter programs also operated in cities across the country. Letters from children to Santa were answered by volunteers, who identified themselves as one of Santa’s elves or helpers in the response.
The Associated Press reported, however, that after a registered sex offender was found to be working for Operation Santa in Maryland last year, the United States Postal Service suspended the program for 2009. Officials were concerned that sex offenders and predators could have unrestricted access to children’s names and addresses.
Taking the lock off Santa’s Mailbag.
The elves at Operation Santa worked overtime on November 20 and 21, though, to work out a solution with the United States Postal Service. According to Mark Memmott at NPR.org, Santa’s elves and helpers were working to reach a compromise over the safety and security issues that cropped up in this popular holiday program.
In a follow-up to her earlier Associated Press article, Rachel D’Oro reported that the lock finally came off Santa’s mailbag on November 21, but the United States Postal Service has tightened privacy restrictions for letters from children to Santa.
Santa’s new forwarding address: 1 Santa Claus Lane
The volunteers at Operation Santa in North Pole, AK were cheered by the news. In D’Oro’s article, Gabby Gaborik, Chief Volunteer Elf in North Pole, is quoted as saying “It’s Great!” Volunteers in the program also received a new alternate address where kids may write directly to Santa:
1 Santa Claus Lane
North Pole, AK 99705
Letters to Santa from other countries
Writing letters to Santa is a time-honored tradition in many countries besides the United States:
Britain. For years, children would write to Father Christmas and then toss the letter in the fireplace, which would magically be transported to the North Pole. Times change, though, and British children now can use Royal Mail to send letters to: Father Christmas, North Pole, SAN TA1.
Mexico. To make sure their letters reach Santa, children in Mexico sometimes tie them to helium balloons and release them.
Canada. Even though kids living in the Great White North are closer to the North Pole, Santa’s letters from Canada are sent to: Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0 (the zeroes replace the ‘O’ in the Canadian Postal Code)
Associated Press, “Grinched! US stops forwarding Santa Letters to North Pole, Alaska,” Rachel D’Oro
NPR.org, “Letters to the North Pole May Yet Make Their Way to the North Pole (Alaska, That Is),” Mark Memmott
Associated Press, “Santa letter tradition gets a second chance,” Rachel D’Oro