In 2017, I landed the quirkiest seasonal job a writer could imagine: answering Santa’s mail for kids worldwide for a small Etsy business, BornonBonn, run by Teresa McClure. I answered children’s letters to Santa Claus from 2017-2021. My schedule is too hectic now but during those years I learned a lot about the magic of the Christmas spirit and bringing childhood dreams to life.
Each year I would come up with several different templates to use for the letters; the content of each template varied depending on the child’s age and other demographics. Parents would send in their children’s messages to Santa: what they wanted for Christmas that year, what they had accomplished in extracurricular activities, how they were doing in school, and occasionally some behavioral challenges they needed to work on that Santa could gently address. (Oddly enough, kids tend to listen more when Santa Claus reminds them to brush their teeth twice a day!) The letters were printed on vintage paper in a font made to look like authentic handwriting, and each letter came in a real-looking envelope addressed to the child’s home from the North Pole, stamps and all.
Sometimes, kids would ask for presents that parents could not get that year: a common one was a puppy. My job as Jolly Saint Nick was to devise a clever alternative and remind them that Christmas’s true joy comes not from gifts but from spending time with your loved ones.
Many children didn’t ask for material items at all, though. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height, most kids missed school, their friends, and their families. In 2020, two little boys that were brothers asked: “for COVID-19 to end this year.” In Santa speak, I explained he could not make viruses end, but he was proud that they had done a good job handling all the changes the year brought. I received many such requests in 2020, along with questions about how the pandemic affected operations at the North Pole (I assured them that the magic of the North Pole protected all of the elves, reindeer, myself, and Mrs. Claus from the virus.) Santa even assured children he would wear a mask and wash his hands!
Some of the more heartwarming requests I got from children were for their sick grandparents to get better. One little girl’s most significant accomplishment of the year was caring for her sick “Pappy.” One year, a little boy asked for “a telescope, a book with interesting, fun facts, and world peace.” I was always blown away by the sweet nature with which kids viewed the world. Their wittiness never failed to make me chuckle, and I learned that the youngest people have some of the best qualities: honesty, curiosity, and kindness. Adults can learn a lot from children; they’re wiser than you might think.
Writing Santa letters taught me that we all have much to be thankful for every year. Whether it was a family vacation, a new hobby or skill you mastered, making a new friend, or acing an exam. I recommend you spend some time reflecting on the highlight reel of your year. Kids naturally tend to focus on the positive aspects of life, so I loved reading about their accomplishments each year.
I learned always to ask questions. Humans are lifelong learners, and there’s something special about the curiosity and open-mindedness that little ones have that seems to get lost in translation once we reach adulthood. My favorite elementary school teacher once told me that “the moment you stop asking questions is the moment you stop learning.” Answering children’s detailed questions in their letters solidified this lesson, and I have practiced the art of questioning everything ever since.
The kids I wrote to taught me that the most vital ingredients of life are laughter, adventure, friendship, curiosity, and love. I learned to be like a child again, to approach the world with a carefree attitude, to laugh often, and to love well. And that’s what the holiday spirit is all about.