One of the most unique and heartwarming holiday programs has been in existence for over 100 years and is conducted by the United States Postal Service. USPS Operation Santa receives thousands of letters to Santa from children every year. The letters are carefully reviewed, scanned, and posted on the USPS website, with personal information removed. Generous people from all over the U.S. adopt the letters and send gifts to the children, with shipping provided by the North Pole.
In 2022, over 25,000 letters were adopted and over 18,000 packages were sent to children in need. The generosity of Illinoisans was on full display, with Illinois residents recording the third-most adoptions with 1,346. Only California (1,733) and Texas (1,691) had more. All of these generous Americans helped to put a smile on a child’s face while also fulfilling their Christmas wishes.
Aspiring Santas from anywhere in the U.S. can now browse the letters to Santa online, select one they want to respond to with a note or a gift, and bring their response to a post office for delivery. Those packages and letters can also get a special North Pole postmark.
The program dates back to 1912, when Postmaster Frank Hitchcock authorized local postmasters to allow employees and citizens to respond to letters addressed to Santa Claus. The program became known as Operation Santa. Mail volume increased to the point that in the 1940s the USPS invited charitable organizations and corporations to participate, and they provided written responses and small gifts. In 2020, the program went nationwide and fully digital online. Letters must be addressed to Santa’s official USPS address – SANTA CLAUS, 123 ELF ROAD, NORTH POLE, 88888. Letters received without last names and correct return addresses cannot be uploaded. Packages can be shipped from all 19,000-plus post offices around the country.
The goal of Operation Santa for the future, and has always been, to help more children and families in need have a happy holiday when they otherwise may not. Program dates for Operation Santa 2023 have been posted. Letters to Santa this year need to be postmarked by December 11, and the website opened for adoption on November 20.