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Yes, Virginia, There Is an "Operation Santa"

The U.S. Postal Service receives, and helps answer, millions of letters to Santa each year. (USPS)
The U.S. Postal Service receives, and helps answer, millions of letters to Santa each year. (USPS)
December 23, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - At a time when "goodwill toward men" may seem to be in short supply, many kids across Virginia and the nation will have their holiday wishes answered by perfect strangers, just because they dropped a letter in the mail.

It's a timeless tradition, kids writing to Santa and for more than a century, Operation Santa has allowed Postal Service employees to write back.

United States Postal Service spokesperson Darleen Reid says by the 1940s, Santa's mailbox had grown so full that with his permission, the Postal Service invited community groups to help by "adopting" letters.

"Some folks get very surprised," she says. "They get a response from Santa. Some get a written response, some get a gift, some get a gift card. We let them choose how they're going to respond."

Anyone interested in helping with Operation Santa can visit USPS.com. Reid says the letters to Santa typically remain in the area from which they were mailed, and all personal information aside from the child's age and what they are asking for is redacted.

While Santa is known for his jolly demeanor, Reid says helping him make holiday wishes come true can be heartbreaking, given the nature of some letters.

"The very first one that we read out loud was a child not asking for any toys or electronics, or anything like that, that you would expect," says Reid. "He asked for rice and beans. So, a lot of the letters have great need and want."

And that even includes touching letters from adults. Reid says some locations will be answering letters right up until today, even as Santa's sleigh is preparing for takeoff.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA