The holiday tradition of children writing letters to Santa Claus at Christmas is more than 150 years old. The first Santa letters were actually from St. Nicholas to children, counseling them on their behavior. The first images of St. Nicholas were of him as a disciplinarian wearing his clerical garb and complete with a birch switch in hand to use on a wayward child. Parents wrote the letters to admonish their kids and motivate them to adjust their behavior. The letters were left in or by the children’s Christmas stockings. Soon the children responded with their own letters to St. Nick letting him know that they were good.
As the images of St. Nicholas grew into the Santa Claus we know today, so did the tradition of children sending letters to Santa. During the Civil War, the price of postage was lowered and postal service improved. An image by popular cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harpers Weekly showed Santa sitting at a desk with two piles of letters one for naughty children and one for the good children. This helped promote the idea of sending letters to Santa. Nast is also credited with the idea that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole with an 1866 illustration with Santa’s address as Santaclausville, N.P. This gave kids a destination to send their letters and soon post offices around the country began receiving letters to Santa.
The post offices sent back letters or placed them in the dead letter office where they were later destroyed. Newspapers began printing the letters and soon requested kids send letters directly to them even offering prizes for the best letters. Charitable organizations requested that the post office send them the letters so they could help those kids in need get a Christmas present.
Here are some letters from 100 years ago. You can see the toys have changed over the years as well as some of the requested items but kids are still kids. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Muskogee Times-Democrat (Muskogee, Oklahoma) Nov. 26, 1919
Dear Santa Clause:
I am a little girl 10 years old. I would like to have a little Automobile if it isn’t too expensive and some chocolates from Piggly Wiggly store, and don’t forget the little orphans in France. So I will close for this time. As ever,
Rockingham Post-Dispatch (Rockingham, North Carolina), Dec. 18, 1919
Please bring me some cocoanuts, apples, oranges and candy and a great big doll and a doll cart.
I want a air rifle, fire crackers, torpetors and some romen canderns. Yours truly,
Miami Daily Record-Herald (Miami, Oklahoma) Dec. 20, 1918
Dear Santa Claus,
We are two little girls, age 8 and 5. We want you to bring us a candy walking cane a piece, a soldier and Red Cross doll, a table and set of chairs and our dollies a nice new dress. Oh, bring us a nice fluffy white doggie a piece. Your friends,
Eula and Wava Jones
P.S. – Dear Santa, Do not forget the poor children who haven’t any paper and pencil with which to write.
Dear Santa Claus:
I will tell you what I want for Christmas. Please bring an air gun some candy and nuts and a Billy Whiskers book. I do not want German made stuff. I want the real things made under the good old red white and blue. I am 10 years old.
The Richmond Item (Richmond, Indiana) December 1918
I am 12 years old. I am a poor boy and no we won’t have hardly any Christmas at our house if you don’t stop. I need some clothes and a pair of shoes and some candy, nuts and oranges. Santa, there are 5 in our family and we have had the flu so I hope you stop at our house and please don’t forget other little boys and girls. I remain your friend.
El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) Dec. 15, 1917 from an unknown little girl
My papa is dead and my mother has no money. I will be very happy if I have an orange and a bunch of grapes and 5 cents.
The Sandusky Star-Journal (Sandusky, Ohio) Dec. 23, 1918
I would very much like to have you bring me a doll buggy, a doll, set of dishes and if you have a large stock of goodies on hand, you can also bring me a few cookies and mixed nuts. If you know of some little girl that has no playthings at all, take the above to her and I will make my old things do. I am seven years old. Your obedient child,
Genevieve Anna Smith
The Coweta Times (Coweta, Oklahoma) December 1917
How are you by this time I hope you are not at war. I want you to bring me a tricycle, watch, drum. I want some candy and oranges. I hope you will come this Christmas to see all the children.
Author: John Hernandez