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Kids still send letters by snailmail to Santa

STORY BY SAMANTHA ROHLFING BAITA (Week of December 24, 2020)

Do children still handwrite and mail old-fashioned letters to Santa Claus? Or in the texting era, has that beloved tradition gone the way of the 6-cent first-class stamp?

Here in Indian River County, the answer is, “Yes, they still send letters.”  

In fact, enough flow in each year that the post office here has two “elves” on staff to respond on Santa’s behalf to kids’ pleas.

Whether the letters are addressed to Santa Claus at The North Pole or the post office’s official address for Santa at 123 Elf Road, North Pole 88888, the letters mailed in Vero Beach all end up at the downtown post office, where Postal Elves Jacklyn Lisotte and Jackie Roberts carefully craft, decorate and mail responses to waiting children.

Based on Vero Beach 32963’s Yuletide investigation, letters to Santa from local children contain a mixture of funny, straight-forward, heartwarming and heart-breaking requests.

They ranged this year from a crayon scrawled plea for the return of a missing Elf on the Shelf from a child who feared Christmas would be canceled if the elf did not reappear, to a multipage, single-spaced, neatly numbered line-item “Christmas Wish List,” including description, brand and price of each item the child was hoping for.

Lisotte, who is customer services manager at the downtown branch, has been a Postal Elf for several years, taking the precious letters home where she spends “hours and hours” decorating the response letters and envelopes with holiday embellishments.

If a letter includes a message to Santa from the child, in addition to the wish list itself, Lisotte will pen a customized reply, and she spends hours making sure Santa’s response is exactly right.

“It’s sometimes hard,” Lisotte said, “to figure out what to say,” that will work for the child, while not creating unintended problems for the parent – such as promising a gift that might or might not appear on Christmas morning.

Roberts, who has been a Postal Elf for the past four years, said “I enjoy replying to the letters immensely. It’s a lot of fun.”

Dear Santa missives typically begin trickling in around late October, said Lisotte, but, according to one postal carrier, “most of them arrive last minute.”

Lisotte provided an inside glimpse of how Santa and his elves handle the influx, wheeling out a supply cart at the downtown location with manila envelopes containing current Dear Santa letters; letters from previous years; response stationary which includes a poem from Santa; all sorts of decorating materials – colored markers and pencils, crayons, stickers, glitter; a very special “Santa’s Village North Pole” postmark stamp and ink pad; and a red  metal “Letters to Santa” mailbox, which is set out on the counter inside the post office during business hours.

Every year, along with the basic wish-list letters, there are letters that stand out.

“I have some children that write wanting just to talk to Santa in the middle of summer,” said Roberts. “And I remember one child who didn’t want anything for himself – he just wanted to make sure his mother had a good Christmas.”

This year, a short, sweet letter laboriously printed in pencil contained this wish list: “Dear Santa I want a Nintendo, I wish a black tiesuit and shoes and an i phone 10 PRO.”

One letter, asking for a replacement I-Pad, came with an impassioned note: “I’m so, so sorry I lost my tablet. I’ve looked everywhere so I hope you don’t think I’m earasposable. [sic]”

Still other letters asked for: “toys for Amelia”; a rock tumbler; a blue kayak with paddle; various electronics; and “some little people toys for my little sister.”

The frantic, crayoned letter from the little boy pleading for the return of Bella, his family’s Elf on the Shelf, told Santa he feared “we won’t have Christmas without her. I have a gift for her also. Please, please, please Santa, Please send her back.” The letter was illustrated with broken hearts and sad-face drawings.

The Post Office’s Operation Santa program includes an attractive, easy-to-navigate web portal at where anyone moved by the spirit of the season can adopt a child’s letter and respond with a message from Santa and a gift the child asked for.