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Johannesburg - “Dear Father Christmas,” his letter begins.
“Please may I have a house I can go inside and eat breakfast in there and when it rains, can’t (won’t) rain inside,” the heart-rending letter continues.
The author? A three-year-old boy who wrote the letter on November 26 – well in advance to make sure it reached its North Pole address before Christmas.
His handwriting might be a little too dainty for a three-year-old but his signature is telling – an outline drawing of his tiny right hand.
This letter is one of over 2 000 heart-wrenching, funny and quirky letters the South African Post Office (Sapo) has received.
They are from all over the country – and more are still streaming in.
Whether it’s big or small requests, you name it, the children want it.
And aside from the wish- lists, ranging from iPads to dolls to clothes, many of Santa’s fans are genuinely interested in how he is doing.
One letter reads: “Dear Santa Claws. How are you? How is Mrs Claws and the elves and the raindeers?
Another, written in different-coloured pens, reads: “Dear Santa, how are the reindeer and Mrs Claus?” The author goes on to assure Santa that she really has been a good girl this year.
One, out of concern that Santa might have his hands full with all the presents he asked for, advises the present-bearer: “We are going to camping to Mozambique, so if the toys are too big, you can leave them at my house and I can get them when I come back,” and goes on to list the 12 gifts he wants.
Sapo communications manager Johan Kruger said 99 percent of the children who wrote to Santa believed he lived in the North Pole.
“The letters with return addresses, we write back to and say ‘thanks for the letter, the post office will send your letter to Santa’.
“The parents know full well what their children want, so they go out and get the presents. Some even help them write the letters,” he said.
Some of the more touching letters are sent to companies, who then use their discretion in how they help the families.
* In the United States, the Post Office’s “Letters to Santa” programne is now in its 100th year.
Postal employees go through the hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska” to separate out those that express serious need.
Some of the letters are answered by charitable groups, businesses, schools, postal employees and individual anonymous givers, who can come to participating branches, pick letters and go shopping.
The Chicago branch has already seen 18,000 letters come in - with more arriving every day, said communications director and “Chief Elf” Robin Anderson this week. She expects about 2,500 will be answered.
The New York “Operation Santa” program is the country's largest, receiving more than a half a million letters each season.
Letters this year are reflecting a greater need for necessities, and have included more letters from adults looking for work who need help buying for their children, according to both Chicago postal workers and givers.
“You're reading letters from six-year-old, eight-year-old kids who aren't asking for video games, they're asking for winter coats and food on the table, which is not something you'd think of kids writing to Santa for,” said Kelley Fernandez, 26, who along with her colleague Debbie Schmidt, 53, who work for Toji Trading Group and have answered letters from Santa for three years.
Last year, Schmidt and Fernandez got other colleagues involved, and this year the whole Chicago office plus the Singapore office participated. The employees bought gifts for 26 families this year, including 106 children - at 40 boxes the largest “Santa” shipment this year from the Chicago branch.
One man who is an annual giver to the Santa programme in Chicago used to be a recipient himself, said Anderson.
Schmidt and Fernandez say they bring a box of tissues to read the letters, because they can be so emotional. Fernandez recalled that last year, a little girl wrote, “Dear Santa, we're staying with our auntie because our mother can no longer take care of us, and we want you to know where we are this year.”
Schmidt said she also sees requests from grandmothers, single moms and single dads.
Schmidt said she and her co-workers are sending handwritten letters back to the families along with the presents, signed by Santa. “We let everything be from Santa,” she said. “The kids are so young, and still believing in Santa.” - The Star