This year, U.S. Postal Service workers are seeing more letters addressed to Santa that are asking for the basics rather than the hot new toy.
This year, U.S. Postal Service workers are seeing more letters addressed to Santa that are asking for the basics rather than the hot new toy. iStockphoto.com
This year, postal workers opening and processing letters to Santa Claus have noticed a significant change in tone from years past.
"Normally the letters would be greedy-type things — big televisions, Xbox, Wiis, things of that nature," Pete Fontana, the head elf in New York City's main post office, tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "This year, the letters are single moms, three kids, no winter coats, no shoes, blankets, can't pay the bills, not enough food in the pantry. So the need has changed tremendously."
Fontana, who has been working in U.S. Postal Service's Operation Santa Claus program for 15 years, shares an example:
Dear Santa, my name is Chisertopher. I am 11 years old. I have a sister. her name is bethania. She is 2 years old and I have a brother who is 9 month. If possible we will like some educational toys and some winter clothe. I will like something to make my mommy happy she is getting kimotherapy after a breast sergury. something like a hat or scarf for her. Thank You so much.
Fontana says not only is he seeing sad letters like this but he also noticed there have been fewer volunteers. Under the program, volunteers come into the post office and read through the letters and pick families to send packages to.
Courtesy Pete Fontana
Pete Fontana, the head elf in New York City's main post office, has been working with the U.S. Postal Service's Operation Santa program for 15 years.
"They're deciding which ones fit their budget, or which ones touched their heart," Fontana says.
The volunteers then go out and buy presents and come back to the post office to mail them.
Traditionally, the busiest times for Operation Santa Claus are Thursday evenings and Saturdays, Fontana says. But he says last Saturday the post office was empty.
"The participation level is down severely from past years," he says. "We hope to see a lot of people come in here tonight and on this Saturday, too, which would be our last Saturday."
Letters to Santa can often elicit out-loud laughter. But Fontana says this year, the letters have been bleak.
"We're not getting that many laughing this year," he says. "It's more people crying."