Make Christmas morning a little merrier for someone who needs it.

By Jessica Bennett
November 27, 2019

Operation Santa is making holiday wishes come true for little ones in need. The online program, operated by the U.S. Postal Service, allows people to play Secret Santa by "adopting" a letter to St. Nick and sending the child a toy, a new coat, or whatever else is on their Christmas list.

Here’s how Operation Santa works: Kids write a letter to Santa and mail it via the USPS to the official North Pole address (123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888). The USPS then sorts and scans these letters, removing personal information such as last names and addresses before posting the scanned note to the Operation Santa website.

You can then browse through the handwritten letters and select one—or several—to adopt. You’ll need to register an account and verify your identity before making a selection. In Chicago and New York, you can also browse through letters in person at your local post office, then fill out a form and show a valid ID to adopt one. After completing your Secret Santa shopping, simply package up the present and attach a label with an ID number (which is provided when you adopt a letter) on the box to ensure it goes to the right place. Then visit a participating post office location to drop off your package and pay for the shipping.

While some letters request items like the latest video game or "a purple scooter with a unicorn on the front," others ask for more practical items like a toothbrush, shoes, gloves, and other basic necessities. Most of the letters come from kids, but some of the messages are written by families who need some extra help this season.

Operation Santa launched more than a hundred years ago when the USPS began receiving letters addressed to Santa Claus. At first, these letters intended for the North Pole were simply sorted and set aside, but in 1912, the postmaster general began allowing postal employees to open the letters and respond. The program was opened to the public in the 1940s as letters to Santa continued to flood in. The USPS began accepting charitable donations and written responses from organizations, corporations, and individuals in the giving spirit.

In 2017, the USPS brought Operation Santa online, launching the digital version first in New York. This year, the program has expanded to allow anyone in the U.S. to adopt a child’s letter and fulfill their holiday wish. However, only letters sent to Santa from 15 U.S. cities will be scanned and listed on the Operation Santa website. The list of participating cities spans across the country, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Denver, and more.

If you’d like to participate in Operation Santa, the USPS suggests sending your gift before December 21 to ensure it arrives on time. So start your shopping now to make Christmas morning a little merrier for a kid in need.

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