New York City Postal Workers Open Mail To Santa

Christmas is weeks away, but Santa is already getting a lot of letters. New York City postal workers have opened the letters and the public has been invited to make someone's Christmas wish come true.

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It's illegal to open someone else's mail, but in New York City, starting today, postal workers make their yearly exception. Kid's letters to Santa are piled up in the city's main post office, and the public is invited to make someone's Christmas wish come true. NPR's Robert Smith reports.

ROBERT SMITH: The letters start arriving in October.

Unidentified Child #1: Dear Santa.

Unidentified Child #2: Dear Santa.

SMITH: 100,000 handwritten notes so far this year.

Unidentified Child #3: Dear Santa.

Unidentified Child #4: Dear Santa.

SMITH: The kids of P.S. 19 in the East Village showed up at the post office today to read some of the letters and add their own to the list.

Unidentified Child #5: A fake car but not a real car.

Unidentified Child #6: I want a bunch - a bunch of soldiers.

Unidentified Child #7: I wanted a real puppy with a bone and a leash.

SMITH: When you shuffle through the boxes of Santa letters, you can see that there is a standard format. First comes the apology.

Ms. LATREYA SAMTER MALONE (Postal Worker, New York City): Dear Santa Claus, I know I have not been so good the past few days, but I hope you can give me at least some of the things I want.

SMITH: And then comes the list: toys, DVDs, dolls, things that can break your heart. Postal worker Latreya Samter Malone(ph) shows me an envelope with a dog collar in it.

Ms. MALONE: Dear Santa, I need a help trying to find Fluffy. Can you please help me? I would do anything to get him back. If you get him for me, he will need a new leash, collar, dog bed and shoe toy. Love, Annie Volkers(ph).

SMITH: New Yorkers who choose a letter are asked to do the best they can. Gary Smiley(ph), a New York City paramedic, has picked up letters and sent out presents for 18 years now. And he's seen the Christmas wishes change over the years.

Mr. GARY SMILEY (Paramedic, New York City): It's kind of shifted a lot from more toys to more clothing and necessities. You know, they really just need the basics in life, and they don't really - they don't want a race car; they want a coat. Or, you know, they want a pair of pants or a nice outfit to go to school with so the other kids don't make fun of them, opposed to a doll or something.

SMITH: But Smiley always includes a toy, even if the children don't ask for it. It's the Santa way. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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