“Santa Claws 1 reindeer-Lane north pole Alaska,” reads an envelope in a child’s handwriting, sitting on top of several others like it in the Hoboken Post Office.
“Dear Santa, I have been very good. How are you? How are you doing at the North Pole? Santa have your elves been silly or good making the presents? If I am good will you bring presents. I want to hear you,” wrote another little girl.
“I want to tell you something funny. The thing that I was going to tell you is my name starts with Christ just like Christmas,” wrote a girl.
Children have until Friday Dec. 23 to send their letters to Santa Claus in care of the Hoboken postal service. In fact, the main post office at 89 River St. has a special red mailbox out front dedicated to children’s letters to St. Nick.
“We do this every year,” said Brad Johnson, who has been in charge of the letters to Santa since 2001.
Johnson emptied out a box of about 100 letters onto a desk in a backroom of the post office last week and said this year the post office will probably get “hundreds” of letters, although he has never stopped to count them.
Some of the letters include hand-drawn Santas or picture of ornaments.
Johnson said over the years children have asked for iPads, iPhones, and Tamagotchis as well as jackets for family members.
“We haven’t gotten any sad letters yet this year,” said Johnson. “The Hoboken population has changed. Hoboken kids are very fortunate as the town is more affluent.”
This year, he said, “Hatchimals” are popular, as well as Elsa dolls and Xboxes.
Hatchimals are egg-shaped toys a child takes care of until the toy inside hatches itself after about 20 minutes or so.
One boy asked for soccer memorabilia but was willing to give that up if he could become a soccer player.
“And the one that I want the most of all and I would take off all the ones that I asked for for just that one asking is becoming a soccer player. Please please please I you do give me these askings than thank you hope you give stuff,” he wrote.
“I think of you so much. P.S. Gio isn’t being nice to me.”
Another child wasn’t as generous with family. “Dear Santa I love you more then my Parents and my brother and chyna you give me joy everyday. I think of you so much. P.S. Gio isn’t being nice to me,” read one letter with a picture of a “randier,” Santa and the girl in a heart, and “air.”
Johnson said his favorite part of the project is “December 26th,” he said, laughing. “No, all kidding aside, I love when the kids write the letters themselves because it means they are learning how to write and properly address letters and stamp them.”
Johnson said he wished more children wrote letters, as he has had to help a few adults “who didn’t know where the stamp went.”
Johnson said his own children are excited for Christmas this year.
“My son, he’s 4, thinks I work with Santa Claus,” said Johnson. “He asks everyday when I get back from work if Santa stopped by to pick up some letters.”
Last week, letters from the post office responding to the children, written by “Santa,” were ready to be sent out with a small gift. As long as the children include their address, they get a letter back.
“I wanted to write you a letter to wish you a Merry Christmas. I understand you’ve been good this year and are looking forward to Christmas,” read one, which children receive in addition to a small toy or coloring book. “The elves and I have been working very hard making presents for you and all other boys and girls on my list. Rudolph has his red nose all shined up and ready to lead the other reindeer to your home on Christmas Eve!”
The letter goes on to encourage children to go to bed early, and leave a snack.
“We volunteer a few hours every night to read the letters and respond,” said Johnson. “We try and include a small gift like a coloring book and crayons or a small toy from the dollar store.”
Nationwide, the United States Postal Service has been accepting and responding to letters to Santa since at least 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock launched the annual Operation Santa program.
Johnson said the Letters to Santa program is at no cost to the post office as everyone volunteers their time and donates the small toys themselves.
Johnson said the post office also gets a few letters to Santa from out of town.
“Those are harder to give gifts to, because we can’t just hand them to our own mail carriers,” he said. “They either only get a letter or we try and give them a coloring book because it fits in the envelope. But we try and give every kid something.”
“Dear Santa, you are the best,” wrote a young boy. “And you are amazing that why I like you so much Santa.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.