Writing letters to Santa Claus and other Winter Holiday wizards has been a Christmas and Winter Holiday tradition for children for more than 100 years. These letters normally contain a wishlist of toys and assertions of good behavior. Some social scientists have found that boys and girls write different types of letters. Girls generally write longer but more polite lists and express the nature of Christmas more in their letters than in letters written by boys. Girls also more often request gifts for other people.
NORAD Tracks Santa Partners
From the 2005 thru the 2008 NORAD Track Santa seasons, one could send e-mail to Santa Claus at the North Pole from the NORAD Tracks Santa website. From 2005 thru 2007 the e-mail to Santa Claus was handled by the NORAD Tracks Santa partner for e-mail to the North Pole for those years, Official Santa Mail.  For the 2008 NORAD Track Santa season, this was handled by the NORAD Tracks Santa partner for e-mail to the North Pole, Canada Post (Canada's Post Office).
For the 2011 NORAD Track Santa season, instead of e-mail, one can send or receive personalized video messages from Santa Claus at the North Pole, using the NORAD Tracks Santa partner for personalized video messages, UGroup Media (Portable North Pole).
Messages and Letters to Winter Holiday Wizards Pre-1850
Prior to the world-wide implementation after 1850 of the current postal system, which is based on the reforms of the United Kingdom postal reformer Sir Rowland Hill, a variety of ways were used to deliver messages and letters to the Winter Holiday wizards. In England it was traditional for some children to burn Christmas letters on an open log home fire, so that they would be magically transported by the wind to the North Pole. By the late 20th century this tradition died out because: 1) few homes had open log fires in their houses, and 2) an effective and efficient national and international postal system became available to send mail to Father Christmas. In Scotland, children would “cry up the lum” by sticking their heads up the chimney and shout out their Christmas desires. In Spain and Latin America, children would send letters to the "Three Kings” (Magi) by leaving these letters beside the Nativity crèche (or crib). In most of Europe, children would place notes in their shoes beside a chimney or Christmas tree, for their particular Winter holiday wizard, such as St. Nicholas, "The Christ Child", the Italian La Befana, and the "Three Kings". Swiss children would know that the letters that they left on the windowsill for the "The Christ Child" were taken if chocolate was left in their place. 
Even in the 21st century, some children in Latin American countries attach their letters to small helium balloons, releasing them into the air so that the "Three Kings" magically receive them. Other children still leave their letters on a table, alongside cookies or mince-pies and a glass of milk or sherry, as a treat for Santa to eat as he reads the letters. Some children also leave carrots for Santa's reindeer. 
Letter Writing to Santa and Other Winter Holiday Wizards
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries children in many lands adopted Santa Claus as the Christmas season Winter Holiday wizard and gift-bringer. In the 1880s American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) gave Santa Claus an address, the North Pole. Soon afterwards American children began writing letters to Santa Claus, hoping to guide him in his choice of gifts for them. 
Many postal services allow children to send letters to Santa Claus and other Winter Holiday wizards. These letters may be answered by postal workers and/or outside volunteers. Writing letters to Santa Claus and other Winter Holiday wizards has the educational benefits of promoting literacy, computer literacy, and e-mail literacy. A letter to Santa or another Winter Holiday wizard is often a child's first experience of correspondence. Written and sent with the help of a parent or teacher, children learn about the structure of a letter, salutations, and the use of an address and postcode. 
Some children's charities and other groups answer Winter Holiday season letters from children's hospitals and from "at risk" children, and provide them presents that they would not otherwise receive. In some countries, national postal systems are an important part of this effort, and in other countries these are primarily local efforts.
The Winter Holiday wizards include Santa Claus, Russia's and nearby Slavic countries Father Frost or "Ded Moroz", France's and French speaking countries and areas Père Noël, German speaking countries "The Christ Child" and Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann" (literally the "Christmas Man"), the Dutch and Flemish Sinterklaas, Finland's Joulupukki or "Yule Goat", Iceland's Jólasveinar or "Yule Lads", the Scandinavian "Christmas Gnome," the Italian La Befana, Spain and Spanish speaking countries Three Kings, Slovakia's Baby Jesus, Brazil's Papai Noel, Portugal's Pai Natal, the Basque Olentzero, the United Kingdom's Father Christmas, and others.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has the oldest Santa letter answering effort by a national postal system. The USPS Santa letter answering effort started in 1912 and since 1940 has been called "Operation Santa" to ensure that letters to Santa are adopted by charitable organizations, major corporations, local businesses and individuals in order to make children’s holiday dreams come true from coast to coast. Efforts by other national postal services got underway after World War II.
In 2006, according to the Universal Postal Union (UPU)'s study and survey of national postal operations, France's Postal Service received the most letters for Santa Claus or "Père Noël" with 1,220,000 letters received from 126 countries. France's Postal Service in 2007 specially recruited someone to answer the enormous volume of mail that was coming from Russia for Santa Claus.
- Countries whose national postal operators answer letters to Santa and other end-of-year holiday figures, and the number of letters received in 2006: Germany (500,000), Australia (117,000), Austria (6,000), Bulgaria (500), Canada (1,060,000), Spain (232,000), United States (estimate of 1,000,000 as statistics are not kept centrally), Finland (750,000), France (1,220,000), Great Britain (750,000), Ireland (100,000), New Zealand (110,000), Portugal (255,000), Poland (3,000), Slovakia (85,000), Sweden (150,000), Switzerland (17,863), Ukraine (5,019).
- In 2006, Finland's national postal operation received letters from 150 countries (representing 90% of the letters received), France's Postal Service from 126 countries, Germany from 80 countries, and Slovakia from 20 countries.
- Some national postal operators make it possible to send in e-mail messages which are answered by physical mail or e-mail. All the same, Santa and other Winter Holiday wizards still receive far more letters than e-mail through the national postal operators, proving that children still write letters. National postal operators offering the ability to use an on-line web form (with or without a return e-mail address) to Santa and other Winter Holiday wizards in order to obtain a reply include:
- -- Canada Post - on-line web request form in English to Santa and in French to Père Noël - reply is by an on-line form and a follow-on e-mail note.
- -- France's Postal Service - on-line web request form in French to Père Noël - reply is by a physical post card.
- -- New Zealand Post  - on-line web request form in English to Santa - reply is by a physical letter to New Zealand residents only.
- -- Spain's Postal Service - on-line web request form in Spanish to the "Three Kings" - reply is an e-mail reply and, if additional fields are filled out, a physical letter and a gift to Spanish residents only. 
In France, by 6 December 2010, a team of 60 postal elves had sent out reply cards in response to 80,000 e-mail on-line request forms and more than 500,000 physical letters. 
Canada Post has a special postal code for letters to Santa Claus, and since 1982 over 13,000 Canadian postal workers have volunteered to write responses. His address is: Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0  (see also: Ho ho ho). (This postal code, in which zeroes are used for the letter "O" is consistent with the alternating letter-number format of all Canadian postal codes.) In 2009, 1,000 postal elves answered 1.1 million letters and 39,500 e-mail on-line request forms from children in 30 different languages, including Braille. 
Starting in 2010, the Brazilian National Post Service, “Correios” formed partnerships with public schools and social institutions to encourage children to write letters and make use of postcodes and stamps. In 2009, the Brazilian National Post Service, “Correios” answered almost two million childrens' letters, and spread some seasonal cheer by donating 414,000 Christmas gifts to some of Brazil's neediest citizens. 
Through the years, the Finnish Santa Claus (Joulupukki or "Yule Goat") has received over eight million letters. He receives over 600,000 letters every year from over 198 different countries with Togo being the most recent country added to the list.  Children from Great Britain, Poland and Japan are the busiest writers. The Finnish Santa Claus lives in Korvatunturi, however the Santa Claus Main Post Office is situated in Rovaniemi near the Arctic circle. The post office welcomes 300,000 visitor a year, with 70,000 visitors in December alone. 
Children can also receive a letter from Santa through a variety of private agencies and organizations, and on occasion public and private cooperative ventures. Two examples of private agencies and organizations are "Letter from Santa Claus" and "Free Letters from Santa Claus." An example of a public and private cooperative venture is the opportunity for expatriate and local children and parents to receive postmarked mail and greeting cards from Santa during December in Beijing, People's Republic of China under the auspices of the China Trade Commission, the Finnish Embassy in Beijing, Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, and the People's Republic of China Postal System's Beijing International Post Office.   Parents can order a personalized "Santa letter" to be sent to their child, often with a North Pole postmark. The "Santa Letter" market generally relies on the internet as a medium for ordering such letters rather than retail stores.
In many countries, stamp collectors and others send their letters to post offices with Christmas-sounding names to have their mail postmarked. Examples in the United States: Christmas (Florida), Bethlehem (Maryland), Hope, Nazareth (Michigan), Saint Joseph (Missouri), Snow Shoe (Pennsylvania). In Canada: Christmas Island (Nova Scotia). Examples in Europe: Berne Bethlehem (Switzerland), St. Nikolaus (Germany), Christkindl (Austria).
Winter Holiday and Christmas Post Offices
Winter Holiday and Christmas post offices are places, where children during the Christmas and winter holiday season can send letters to Santa Claus and other Winter Holiday wizards, which if they have a return address can often be answered.
The reply is either free or the cost of enclosed return postage. In many cases, a standardized form with child-friendly, Christmas and Winter holiday motifs is used. In many cases, the letter writers will receive a personalized reply.
Most of the letters to Santa and other Winter Holiday wizards from children include a wishlist asking for certain toys, candy or other consumer items. Some children write illustrated letters and drawings along with heartfelt desires, for peace, security, an intact family, health, better academic performance, the recovery of a sick relative, or even a white Christmas.
Winter Holiday and Christmas post offices exist in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia. Most of these post offices are under the auspices of national postal organizations and others are maintained by private organizations.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has the oldest Santa letter answering effort by a national postal system. The USPS Santa letter answering effort started in 1912 and since 1940 has been called "Operation Santa" to ensure that letters to Santa are adopted by charitable organizations, major corporations, local businesses and individuals in order to make children’s holiday dreams come true from coast to coast. Those seeking a North Pole holiday postmark through the USPS, are told to send their letter from Santa or a holiday greeting card by December 10 to: North Pole Holiday Postmark, Postmaster, 4141 Postmark Dr, Anchorage, AK 99530-9998.
In 1965, Germany's first "Christmas post office" opened in Himmelsthür, a part of the city of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony whose name, appropriately, means "heaven's door."
Over the years, other post offices in places that sound like they might be associated with Christmas have added special Christmas post offices, which are only open during specific months, usually from early November until late December. Those places include Engelskirchen ("angels' church"), Himmelpfort ("heaven's gate"), Himmelpforten ("heaven's gates") and Himmelstadt ("heaven's city"), Nikolausdorf ("Nicholas village") in Lower Saxony or St. Nikolaus in Saarland.
The Christmas post office of Himmelpfort, in the German state of Brandenburg, is the only holiday post office in the five (5) eastern, formerly communist, states of Germany.
Some of the locations are now only "Christmas post offices," as the German Post Office continues to reduce its branch network, and close post offices in smaller towns and districts.
For example, Germany's first "Christmas post office" in Himmelsthür, a part of the city of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony is no longer part of the full-time German Post Office network. The Christmas tradition however is maintained by local volunteers who continue to answer letters to Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann."
While the network of full-time German post office shrinks, the German Post Office support for "Christmas post offices" and the Christmas letter writers has increased. One example of this, is the small town of Himmelsberg ("heaven's mountain") in the state of Thuringia. The town had been answering letters sent to Santa for over 20 years.
Until recently, a village club had been taking care of the letters, paying for the envelopes and stamps for the replies, which were written by volunteers. Nobody in the club had even thought to inform the German Post Office about it.
But the German Post Office found out about the practice and decided to get involved. "For a club like this, it can be an expensive undertaking, after all," says Alexander Böhm, the German Post Office spokesperson responsible for the area. His company now pays for the paper, the envelopes and the stamps. "It's also a little bit of advertising for us in the process," he adds.
From 2011 on, Himmelsberg has its own postmark signifying its status as a Christmas post office and "officially" became the newest "Christmas post office" address in Germany for letters send to Santa or the Christkind "Child of Christ".
Swiss Post's program started in 1950 and currently comprises a team of six Santa Claus’s helpers in Chiasso, Ticino, Switzerland. Austria started their program in 1950 in Christkindl, Austria.
Finland and Denmark followed later in the 1950's.
France's postal system started answering Père Noël letters in 1962 and went on the internet in 1996.
Canada Post's program started in 1982 and uses more than 11,000 current and retired Canada Post employees, affectionately called Postal Elves.
In 1998, the town of Veliky Ustyug in Vologda Oblast, Russia was declared the home of the Russian Father Frost "Ded Moroz" by Yury Luzhkov, then Mayor of Moscow. Between 2003 and 2010, the post office in Veliky Ustyug received approximately 2,000,000 letters from within Russia and from all over the world for Father Frost "Ded Moroz".     
Mailing Addresses for Letters to Santa and other Winter Holiday Wizards
|Mailing Addresses for Santa Claus and other Winter Holiday Wizards by Country|
|Country||Santa Claus Mailing Address|
North Pole 9999
|Austria|| Post Office Christ Child "Christkindl" |
|Belarus|| Father Frost "Ded Moroz"|
Father Frost's House
Kamenyuki, 225063, Kamenets District
|Belgium|| Sinterklaas |
|Canada|| Santa Claus|
| Denmark||Santa's Copenhagen Office at Rensdyrvej 1 |
PO Box 2412
DK-1566 Copenhagen V
| Denmark||Santa Claus North Pole |
Julemandens Post Office
|Finland|| Santa Claus’ Main Post Office|
Santa’s Workshop Village
FIN-96930 Arctic Circle
|France|| Père Noël|
| Bavaria|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann" / The Christ Child "Christkind" |
| Brandenburg|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann"|
| Lower Saxony|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann" |
31535 Neustadt am Rübenberge|
| Lower Saxony|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann"|
| Lower Saxony|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann" / St. Nicholas|
Nikolausdorf, 49681 Garrel
| Lower Saxony|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann" / The Christ Child "Christkind" |
Christkindfiliale, 21709 Himmelpforten
| North Rhine-Westphalia|| The Christ Child "Christkind" |
| Saarland|| St. Nicholas |
66 325 Großrosseln
| Thuringia|| Santa Claus "Weihnachtsmann"|
|Ireland|| Santa Claus|
|New Zealand|| Santa Claus|
North Pole 0001
|Norway|| Julenissen |
|Russia|| Father Frost "Ded Moroz"|
Father Frost's House
Veliky Ustyug, Vologda Oblast
|Slovakia|| Baby Jesus |
99 999 Ježiško
| Sweden|| Santa Claus / Tomte|
173 00 Sweden
| Switzerland|| Santa Claus / Père Noël / Christkind / Gesù Bambino |
Central Reference Post Depot
|United Kingdom|| Santa / Father Christmas |
|United States of America|| North Pole Holiday Postmark|
4141 Postmark Dr
Anchorage, AK 99530-9998
Santa Claus House
- ↑ "Australia Post - Christmas stamps depict vibrancy, warmth and tradition". Auspost.com.au. 2010-11-15. http://auspost.com.au/about-us/christmas-stamps.html. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "Understanding What Christmas Gifts Mean to Children" by Jenniina Halkoaho and Pirjo Laaksonnen, pages 248 - 255 in "Young Consumers" and their reference to the 1994 article by Otnes, Cele, Kyungseung Kim, and Young Chan Kim. "Yes, Virginia, There is a Gender Difference: Analyzing Children's Requests to Santa Claus." in the Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 28, no. 1 (Summer 1994), pp. 17–29
- ↑ "NORAD Tracks Santa site could hit billion mark, December 14, 2005 by Kristina Davis" (in en). The Maple Leaf. http://www.dnd.ca/site/Commun/ml-fe/article-eng.asp?id=2167. Retrieved 2009-12-31.
- ↑ "Canada Post delivers Santa e-mails for NORAD, December 16, 2008 by SLt David Lavallee" (in en). Canada's Air Force. http://www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/v2/nr-sp/index-eng.asp?id=7510. Retrieved 2009-12-31.
- ↑ "NORAD is ready to track Santa’s flight, Dec 1, 2011, NORAD Public Affairs" (in en). NORAD. http://www.norad.mil/News/2011/120111.html. Retrieved 2011-12-01.
- ↑ ""Letters to Santa Claus" in "The World Encyclopedia of Christmas", by Gerry Bowler, Editor, 2000" (in en). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Limited. http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/noradsanta/images/0/02/Bowler-G_-_World_Encyclopedia_Xmas_-_Ltrs_to_Santa_-_2000.PDF#page=3. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- ↑ "Childrens Letters to Santa, by Derek Slark" (in en). Derek Slark. http://hubpages.com/hub/Childrens-Letters-to-Santa. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 "No small job for postal elves, 15 Dec 2010" (in en). Universal Postal Union - UPU. http://news.upu.int/news/news-details/article/no-small-job-for-postal-elves///f0ccca0236af7c1926e43736f4baa4b6/. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- ↑ ""'Childrens Letters’. (2003). In 'Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations.' by Tanya Gulevich, Editor, 2003." (in en). Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc.. http://www.archive.org/stream/TanyaGulevich-EncyclopediaOfChristmasNewYearsCelebrations2nd/EncyclopediaOfChristmasAndNewYearsCelebrations_djvu.txt. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 "Santa Claus receives more than six million letters annually and growing, 20 Dec 2007" (in en). Asian Tribune. http://www.asiantribune.com/node/8798. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ "Letters to Santa Program: Delivering the Holidays, Delivering Dreams, Dec 2009" (in en). United States Postal Service - USPS. http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2009/holiday/santa.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- ↑ "France answers the most Santa letters, 21 Dec 2007" (in en). http://www.xmas.co.uk/. http://www.xmas.co.uk/news/2007/Dec/france-answers-the-most-santa-letters.html. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ "Canada Post - Holiday - Santa's Corner". Canadapost.ca. http://www.canadapost.ca/dec/santa/writesanta/default-e.asp. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ ": LA POSTE | Père Noël :". Laposte.fr. http://www.laposte.fr/pere-noel/LaPoste-PereNoel.html. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "Father Christmas's French office open, 18 Nov 2010" (in en). The Connexion. http://www.connexionfrance.com/Father-Christmas-Le-Pere-Noel-12267-view-article.html. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ "Send a letter to Santa | New Zealand Post". Nzpost.co.nz. http://www.nzpost.co.nz/home/christmas-sorted/send-a-letter-to-santa. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "NZ Post to tighten net for Santa, by Alexis Grant, 30 Nov 2004" (in en). New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=8500944. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ "Spanish Post Office Allows Children to Write Online Letters to the 'Three Kings', 15 Dec 2011" (in Spanish). Inca Avui. http://incaavui.com/2011/12/15/correos-permite-entregar-online-la-carta-a-los-reyes-magos/. Retrieved 2011-12-15.
- ↑ Canada Post. "Canada Post - Employment Opportunities - Traditions". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. http://web.archive.org/web/20080408034050/http://www.canadapost.ca/personal/corporate/about/jobs/traditions-e.asp. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Reveling in Russian Santa’s fairytale home, by Phoebe Taplin, 15 Dec 2010" (in en). Russia: Beyond the Headlines. http://rbth.ru/articles/2010/12/15/reveling_in_russian_santas_fairytale_home05209.html. Retrieved 2010-12-15.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 "Veliky Ustyug, the Russian Santa's Home by Kerry Kubilius" (in en). About.com. http://goeasteurope.about.com/od/russia/p/Veliky-Ustyug-The-Russian-Santas-Home.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 "Veliky Ustyug - Homeland of Father Frost" (in en). Vologda Oblast. http://vologda-oblast.ru/main.asp?v=118&LNG=ENG. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
- ↑ "None.com - China Trade Commission Company News". 1888pressrelease.com. 2006-09-16. http://www.1888pressrelease.com/china-trade-commission-62969-company-pr.html. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "About this site - Embassy of Finland, Beijing - Consulates General of Finland, Shanghai and Guangzhou : Current Affairs". Finland.cn. 2007-05-16. http://www.finland.cn/public/default.aspx?contentid=89807&contentlan=2&culture=en-US. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "Beijing Post Office". Beijing Your Way. http://www.beijingyourway.com/2010/10/beijing-post-office/. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "Beijing International Post Office". Vip.fesco.com.cn. http://vip.fesco.com.cn/bipto/en.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ "Expat kids get the chance to connect with Santa, November 17, 2010 by Todd Balazovic and Li Jing (China Daily)" (in en). China Daily News. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2010-11/17/content_11560299.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ "Say hello to Santa Claus, November 24, 2010 by Zhao Hongyi" (in en). Beijing Today. http://www.beijingtoday.com.cn/tag/post-office. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
- ↑ "United States Postal Service (USPS) North Pole Postmarks in a pdf file". http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/holiday/pdf/northpolepostmarks.pdf?from=2010holidaypressroom_rightnav&page=NorthPolePostmarks. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- ↑ U.K. Royal Mail Christmas early posting competition for 2010
- ↑ Veliky Ustyug page on the site "Small Towns of Russia" (Russian)
- ↑ http://www.christmasdivision.ru/stati/velikij-ustjug-rodina-deda-moroza Veliky Ustyg is the bithplace of Ded Moroz (Russian)
- Operation Santa Claus - Website (English)
- Operation Santa Claus - Santa's Blog (English)
- Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska in the United States of America (English)
- Christmas Post Office of Himmelstadt (Bavaria) (German)
- Christmas Post Office of Himmelpfort (Brandenburg) (German)
- Christmas Post Office of Child of Christ in Himmelpforten (Lower Saxony) (German)
- Christmas Post Office of St. Nicholas, Nikolausdorf (Lower Saxony) (German)
- Christmas Post Office of Child of Christ in Engelskirchen (North Rhine-Westphalia) (German)
- Christmas Post Office of St. Nicholas in St. Nikolaus (Saarland) (German)
Elsewhere in the World
- Christmas Post Office of Child of Christ, Christkindl, Austria (German)
- Post Office of Father Frost "Ded Moroz" in Belarus (English)
- Central Post Office of Père Noël in France (French)
- Christmas Mail to Julenissen in Norway (English)
- Post Office of Father Frost "Ded Moroz" in Russia (English)
- Christmas Mail to Baby Jesus in Slovakia (Slovak)
- Santa's Grotto in the United Kingdom (English)