The holidays are not just a time to get away from the business of your regular day-to-day life; it’s also a chance to give back to those that matter to you. To say thanks for the season through giving gifts and sharing dinner feasts is a common tradition that many of us practice. With the first ‘ber’ month nearing its end, the winter season is slowly creeping up behind us.
Christmas is not unfamiliar with the act of gift giving and even the occasional Christmas card greeting but writing letters to Santa is a tradition that has stayed active since back in the early 20th century. Hundreds upon thousands of children who were able to pick up a pen or a crayon took it upon themselves to write letters to Santa. Correspondingly, the magical jolly man in the red suit has had a colourful history attached to him that you might not have known before.
Santa’s letters were letters sent FROM Santa not TO Santa
Contrary to common modern tradition, Santa’s letters were initially written ‘by him’. Parents made use of St. Nick’s stories to convince their children that the jolly man was watching them from above. It was only when these children figured out the postal service that they started writing back to Santa.
Children had wild guesses on Santa’s address
Most of the letters were improperly stamped or written in crayon or pencil, apparently written by a young child, and would humorously indicate that these letters be sent to the North Pole. More creative children who didn’t know where Santa allegedly lived had to make do with what their imagination gave them such as ‘Iceland’, ‘On the Moon’, or even ‘in Heaven’.
The letter-writing craze started from an illustration
Though parents were already using the story to teach their children some much-needed lessons in being polite, it wasn’t until the 1871 December issue of Harper’s Weekly that a worldwide phenomenon would burst out of control. Thomas Nast depicted a ‘Santa Claus’ checking his mail and sorting the letters written by parents to him by segregating the piles into one ‘naughty’ pile and one ‘good’ pile. Nast’s illustrations made such an impact in 1863 that the current iteration of Santa Claus’ widely recognised attire of a chubby face, fluffy beard, bright red suit with matching black belt and boots is his most familiar image known worldwide.
The tradition continues today
As the years went by, children anxiously waiting for their letter from Santa has been a sign of the innocence and magic that remains to be an inspiration of hope for today. Not all young children who write to Santa wish for gifts or toys, some of them want to have a better home, to cure their illness, or have one more year of Christmas. Charitable organisations who receive the letters addressed to Santa have taken it upon their mission to grant the deserving children’s wishes by writing back ‘as Santa’ or even fulfilling their dreams.