North Pole, Alaska, Forced Out Of Santa Letter Program

New security rules have proven too complex for Alaska’s post offices to bear, so they’re ending their participation in Operation Santa, the 50-year-old program where letters addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole” are answered by volunteers. The program will continue elsewhere, reports the Associated Press, but when I called the USPS to find out where letters should be addressed I was told parents should contact their local post offices for information.

The United States Postal Service has been running the current version of Operation Santa since the 1940s, when the public was invited to help out by adopting and responding to individual letters. In 1954, the Alaskan town of North Pole got in on the scam in a big way by becoming the official destination for any letters that were addressed to “Santa, North Pole.”

But then our modern legal system gummed up the works, when someone discovered a registered sex offender volunteering for the program in Maryland in 2008. (I can’t find any mention of what offense led to his registration, which seems like info you would need before determining whether he posed a threat. It’s a lot easier to say “Omg sex offender coming after your children!” though.) In a panic, the USPS closed the entire program for a few days while they addressed security issues.

Now they’ve addressed it: the last names and addresses of kids who write in are encrypted, and it’s up to each participating post office to decide whether or not they can handle the new complexity. Alaska can’t.

Anchorage-based agency spokeswoman Pamela Moody said dealing with the tighter restrictions is not feasible in Alaska.

“It’s always been a good program, but we’re in different times and concerned for the privacy of the information,” she said.

If that news didn’t shatter your holiday illusions about the postal service, here’s one more thing: Anchorage is now handling all the North Pole postal cancellation marks. To be fair, North Pole was never equipped to handle the thousands of requests each year, so Fairbanks did it until this year. Fairbanks, however, is only about 10 miles northeast of North Pole, while Anchorage is about 260 miles south.

“Popular Santa letter program ends in Alaska” [Associated Press]
“Postal Service Tells Gift-Givers Not to Help Santa” [New York Times]

“Microsoft Releases Dirty Santa Chatbot On Unsuspecting Children!”
“Dirty Elf Shuts Down Canada’s “Write to Santa” Program”
(Photo: fyunkie)


Edit Your Comment

  1. SG-Cleve says:

    This has a one-word answer: ridiculous.

  2. yentaleh says:

    Whats really sad is that Christian kids are missing out on 8 nights of frivolity.

    (I love being Jewish….so do my kids!)

  3. Trai_Dep says:

    Considering that over (way over) 90% of sex crimes against children* are committed by family or close friends of family, wouldn’t the prudent thing to do for those concerned be to have the government put a stop to intra-family, Santa-related communications?
    I hope it happens quickly enough to kick in this year: I haven’t begun my X-mas shopping yet.

    And, I share Chris’ skepticism regarding nebulous sex offenses: getting caught by Johnny Law peeing in public, or doing the Nasty(ish) with your significant other in a car overlooking Lookout Point? They’ve both been situations worthy of becoming a registered sex offender.
    If wanton public pee-ers can fix my Jumbo Jack, then by gosh, they should be allowed to send Billy in Arizona a reindeer-festooned postcard.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Trai_Dep: I finally got around to reading this story this morning, and that thought crossed my mind as well. While a great deal of offenders have histories of violence and severe criminal charges and/or convictions, there’s a big difference between a guy who just got caught taking some photos during a drunken night at the bar, and a guy who tried to lure kids away from the playground.

    • GitEmSteveDave_CanCommentz says:

      @Trai_Dep: @pecan 3.14159265: Don’t they usually “level” the offenders from like “99.997% never to do it again” to “You’re in court trying to get found not guilty, pull your pants up!”.

    • nbs2 says:

      @Trai_Dep: What’s the * for? Enquiring minds want to know.

      • Nidoking says:

        @nbs2: The star indicates that the children were on steroids when they were molested.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @nbs2: I was about to asterisk that (of course) any such crimes = evil regardless if it’s from Trenchcoat Guy, Pervy Poppa or Hawt Teacher, but then deleted it since it was so glaringly obvious a point. Conciseness beckoned; out it went.
        Saw that I left the “*” after I hit submit, and hoped no one would notice. So uhhh thanks. You bast*rd!

  4. sk1d says:

    They should shut it down, everyone knows the real North Pole is in Canada. Postal Code H0H 0H0.

    • Omir The Storyteller says:

      @sk1d: Yup. I have my grandkids send their letters to

      Santa Claus
      North Pole
      H0H 0H0

      just because the postal code tickles me, and because the North Pole is really closer to Canada than Alaska.

      (And yes, I know about North Pole, Alaska. I own a square inch of land up there.)

  5. Nidoking says:

    I believe Santa Claus, Indiana still processes Christmas letters and adds a Santa Claus postmark to the forwarded mail. []

  6. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Trai_Dep: could even be teen on teen stuff in some states. If the legal age is 18, a 17 year old dude with a 17 or 16 year old “lady friend” could become one of these sex offenders.

    Granted, I have kids and if you show up on the list I won’t bother to find out why. But, things like that happen.

  7. LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

    May I just say that I’m thoroughly traumatized by the photo? Thanks, Consumerist…there goes another $400 to my therapist.

  8. all4jcvette says:

    After living in North Pole for 8 years while stationed at Eielson AFB, this is really sad. Volunteers from both the Army Post and the Air Force base would come over to the Santa Clause house and respond to letters from kids all across the USA. It was a lot of fun, what a shame that the Postal Service which is 4 Billion in the hole because of brian less idiots in DC, now can’t continue a worth while program that’s been around for 50 years. I am so looking foward to Nov 2010. So do all those kids get their money back for the stamps that were purchased since the post office “Can’t” handle the actually delivering the mail?

  9. The Porkchop Express says:

    @nbs2: Possibly to mean that in this case it would only be children we are worried about. If the guy showed is yutz to some old lady, chances are kids won’t be his thing.

    Most sexual offenders have a check list for what or who they want to “offend”. the guy banging a horse probably* won’t touch a kid (unless we mean a baby goat). The “glitch” within these people would be akin to a fetish. Foot fetish people aren’t the same as the guys who liked TWO GIRLS ONE CUP, they don’t usually cross over to other fetishes. just like not all alcoholics smoke and not all smokers drink.

    *may not always be true and I’m not an expert.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Looking at this photo I come to realize that the Consumerist is definitely not kid-friendly.

  11. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Trai_Dep: Well, it doesn’t get any more illegal due the age of the animal, so I guess they can get all the action they want

  12. becky says:

    Growing up we sent our letters to Santa by burning them in the fireplace (to be carried by the wind to the North Pole) and never expected a letter back.