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USPS 'Operation Santa' program kicks off

A United States Postal Service worker dressed as

A United States Postal Service worker dressed as Santa Claus stands at a postal window at the James A. Farley Post Office in New York in 2006 to kick off 'Operation Santa Claus'. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

Santa's going digital.

By Christmas 2015, you may be able to obtain a child's Christmas letter addressed to "Santa Claus, North Pole" online, sparing yourself a trip to the post office.

"We're working to get [requests online] by next year," said Darleen Reid, a spokeswoman for the United States Postal Service, of the 102-year-old "Operation Santa" program. She hastened to add that the postal service will always have a "manual" option as many individuals and families have a holiday tradition of going to the "Operation Santa" room at the James A. Farley Post Office to sort through seasonal pleas for clothes, toys, "a pony -- or there will be consequences," as well as plaintive entreaties such as "a job for my dad," and food for an anxious mom worried about her hungry kids.

All requests "have to be mail-able ... Last year we had a kid who wanted a piano. A woman went out and bought a keyboard," Reid recalled.

The USPS typically receives 300,000 to 500,000 letters of request from NYC kids. But New Yorkers step forward to answer "only 10%," which is why the USPS is beseeching individuals, charitable organizations and businesses to "adopt" Christmas letters spilling from the bins at the 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue post office.Letters are separated by borough, but have all personal, identifying information redacted before being assigned a "code." Respondents must bring legal ID and sign a form that "deputizes" them to read first class mail addressed to Santa. Deputies are given 10 to 20 letters at a time by clerks. "We have plenty of elves to help you navigate the lines," Reid assured.

Operation Santa began 102 years ago in part to teach kids "how to write letters," Reid said.

While the digital option is intended to be ready a year from now, "I don't want to promise anything," cautioned Reid, sounding, remarkably, like a parent hoping to rein in a child's high hopes.


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