Postal workers who call themselves "Elves" open envelopes addressed "Pere Noel" - Father Christmas in French -  decorated with love hearts, stickers and glitter, in Libourne, southwest France.(AP Photo/Francois Mori) Letters to Santa
Postal workers who call themselves "Elves" open envelopes addressed "Pere Noel" - Father Christmas in French - decorated with love hearts, stickers and glitter, in Libourne, southwest France.(AP Photo/Francois Mori)

It’s a time-honored tradition. The holidays simply wouldn’t be the same without writing a letter to Santa Claus. But after a child jots down their festive wishes, where does their handwritten letter go?

It goes straight to the North Pole, of course! With Christmas prep and toy making, Santa sometimes needs help responding to the thousands of letters he receives, which is where the United States Postal Service comes in.

“We know Santa and his elves are busy this time of year, and the U.S. Postal Service is proud to deliver the holiday cheer each year, especially through the USPS Operation Santa program,” said Philip Bogenberger, a USPS spokesman based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. 

From local postmasters originally responding to letters to the postal service advertising the opportunity to the public in the 1940s, the program’s experienced some changes over the past 109 years. One of the largest changes occurred between 2017 and 2019, when the postal service started digitizing the letters it received, leaving out important identifiers like addresses. Nowadays, people can “adopt” a letter to fulfill a wish through USPS Operation Santa.

Henry County Parks & Recreation (HCPR) staff members have also helped Santa for the past quarter-century. Santa’s secretaries put out a call each year for parents to fill out a form, which includes information on eight different things unique to that child. Each year, Santa writes to between 500 and 1,000 children through the program, which quickly became a community commodity.

“It has become a fun tradition because it is a fun and easy way for children to experience something unique at Christmas,” said Roger Adams, HCPR director. “We have heard all sorts of reactions, but the best ones are along the lines of, ‘Wow! Santa Claus does really know who I am.’”

The Henry County program is open to any child; the parent simply needs to request a registration form at (276) 634-4640 and return it to HCPR by Dec. 10. The USPS program accepts letters through Dec. 10 at Santa Claus, 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888.