With December in full swing and ‘the big day’ now less than a week away, you’ll be heartened to know that a) today’s tech-savvy, smartphone wielding children still write letters to Father Christmas in the traditional manner b) that real people actually read them and c) that the children can expect a genuine reply to their letters.
The sorting office, which deals exclusively with children’s letters to Santa, is located in Belfast and is listed on the official Royal Mail address finder as being staffed by 10,000 elves, 1,000 reindeer and about 100 snowmen. The areas industry is listed as including “sleigh pulling, toy making and list checking (twice)”.
According to The Telegraph’s Sarah Rainey, around 250,000 letters, addressed to ‘reindeerland’, pass through this highly specialised sorting office every year. Morag Turnbull, who works as the Operations Manager at the Royal Mail in Edinburgh, told The Telegraph that, “The effort the children go to in writing them is wonderful (…) They cut out pictures of toys, draw pictures for Santa, attach stickers, feathers and all sorts of inventive touches. We start getting them as early as August, and we reply to as many as we can before Christmas – but it’s a mad, mad job.”
The letters usually have to be examined by hand, as the Royal Mail sorting machines struggle with kid handwriting, coloured craft paper and glitter. In addition, occasional parcels of food (for Santa and Rudolph, you understand), can (and frequently do), crash the system.
Perhaps the nicest part of this particular story, however, is just what the kids are asking for. In addition to predicable demands for iPads, new bikes and Disney memorabilia, many British children are apparently very selfless in nature.
A small boy named Noah, for example, sent Santa a drawing for his troubles, before asking for new work shoes for his mother and some Lego for his brother, his own request (a DVD player) was listed last of all. Many kids also ask for presents for their pets or their teddy bears and even more request something nice for their brothers and sisters as well as themselves.
A particularly moving letter came from a girl named Casey, who asked Santa Claus to name a star in honour of her granddad, who apparently died in January this year. “Can you give him a big hug and a kiss from me?” She wrote, “I don’t get to see him anymore, but this way I will be able to see him in the sky every night.”
So, the next time you find yourself suffering a bout of the ‘holiday blues’, fretting over January’s credit card bill or getting exasperated by just how busy December can be, take a deep breath and think about that little sorting office in Belfast, a place where the magic of Christmas is still very much in evidence. Think on that and smile.
Thank you for reading, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!