Sunday 4 December 2022

Advent 2: A Letter To Santa

Have you written your letter to Santa yet? Don’t laugh. Some people take it seriously. In fact, there are many places around the world which are recognised by international postal services as the place to send letters addressed to Santa.

When I was young my parents would write to a certain address every December (I can’t remember where, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the Royal Mail) and every year my siblings and I would receive individual letters from “Santa”.

There’s a famous film called “Miracle on 34th Street” in which the principal character claims to be the real Santa Claus. Spoilers – if you haven’t seen it, but plan to, skip to the next paragraph to avoid reading how the film ends. Despite the fact that the character wrongly uses the name Kris Kringle (a totally different character who evolved out of the Christkind, as I explained last year), Santa ends up in court, where the judge refuses to believe he is the real Santa. However, sacks full of letters addressed to Santa are delivered to the court by the US Postal Service and the judge rules that if a government body believes this to be the real Santa then so should he. The case is dismissed and they “all live happily ever after”, as they say.

But what would you do if you start getting hundreds of letters addressed to Santa Claus dropping through your letterbox? That’s the question a gay couple in New York City wanted to know in 2007 when letters to Santa arrived at their apartment.

To be fair, when Jim Glaub and his partner Dylan Parker moved into the apartment on West 22nd Street they were “warned” this would happen by the previous tenants, but they thought nothing of it as there were only a handful of letters arriving every year. Three years later, in 2010, that handful of letters grew into an avalanche of several hundred.

Naturally, the first thing to do was find out why all these letters were being sent to their address, but many hours of investigation produced no definitive answer for Jim and Dylan. What all the letters seemed to have in common, however, was that they were all sent from the same areas in New York and New Jersey. Jim and Dylan assumed that their address was placed on a community newsletter or notice board in error some years ago. What I find intriguing is that while Jim and Dylan have had a lot of publicity across all media over the years regarding these letters, no-one has come forward to claim any involvement in giving out their address. Nor were there any letters saying where they got Jim and Dylan’s address from in the first place.

Whatever the reason the bigger question was what to do with them? There were too many to ignore, and too many for Jim and Dylan to deal with or answer on their own, so they took their conundrum to the wider community.

At first Jim asked friends and work colleagues to help by selecting one letter and, hopefully, providing at least a reply for the writer or by donating the requested present. These requests were varied, from simple small gifts to a bed for one child who wrote in who had to sleep on the sofa.

But, even then, there were still too many letters left unanswered. Jim went online and set up a Facebook group and he was surprised by how many people wanted to help. There were people around the world offering to help with money or by answering letters and providing requested gifts.

Very soon Jim realised this was going to be a massive operation, so he formed a non-profit charity called “Miracle of 22nd Street” (where did he get the idea for the name, I wonder?!). It became an immediate success, and it is still in operation today (here’sthe website).

Even after Jim and Dylan moved to the UK when Jim got a job in London they ensured that the new tenant at West 22nd Street kept all the letters addressed to Santa, scanned them and emailed them to Jim to distribute of the website.

Jim has since returned to the US where he continues to organise Miracle on 22nd Street and its army of many international volunteer Santas.

Here’s just one of several videos on YouTube featuring Miracle on 22nd Street.

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