North Pole, Alaska is 3,800 miles and a 12-hour flight from a small town in southern Indiana with a lot of holiday flair. Despite the distance, they share a common thread: Santa Claus.
The magic of Christmas lives on every corner, shop and business, including the post office. The post office has a much bigger responsibility, moving more than 20,000 letters that are addressed to Santa himself.
“Any letter which has Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Indiana [comes here],” said Marian Balbach, Santa Claus, Ind. post master. “Some of them don’t even have a stamp.”
The letters are picked up by elves from the North Pole. Then they are opened, read and get a handwritten response to children all around the world.
“Santa can’t answer all of the letters,” said Pat Koch, the chief elf. “He’s very busy getting the sleigh ready and the toys ready so he has to have help.”
The town got its first bunch of letters in the early 1900s. Concerned no one was responding, some helping hands pitched in.
Koch is continuing the tradition, penning responses to kids’ requests for over 70 years.
“[What’s the] funniest letter?” said Koch. “I think it was sent in 2007. It said to please make my dad smarter.”
While all unique, some letters are heartfelt.
“Thank you for working so hard year-round,” said Emily Thompson, Santa Claus Museum and Village Director. “Can you please pray for my sister whom we haven’t met yet who is from China? We hope to adopt.”
“Santa, I don’t want anything for Christmas,” read Camila VanTrace, an elf. “I just want to give to the poor. This year, I’m giving to the poor. I’m not lying.”
Others are humorous, coming from all corners of the globe.
“Dear Santa, did you forget your shoes? They’re at my house,” read Thompson.
And as they read and respond, these helpful hands come with stories of their own. While others look like they were born for the job.
“I’ve always loved the meaning behind Christmas,” said Tim Etter, an elf.
Each letter written with love and read with a soft heart.
“It gets hard when there are letters from children and families who don’t’ have a lot,” said Thompson. “It makes you appreciate how much you do have and how lucky we all are in many ways.”
If you want to make sure Santa reads your letter next year, send it before December 21 to:
P.O. Box 1
Santa Claus, Indiana