BOSTON (CBS) — When you see a mall Santa taking pictures and laughing with happy children on his lap, you tend to assume he’s getting hit up for the usual toys these days — items like iPods, E – readers, or X-Boxes.
But Christmas 2010 is new territory. And children are showing a remarkable and startling awareness of their families’ financial situations.
One clear way to tell is by the letters they’re writing to Santa himself.
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.
For nearly 100 years, the US Post Office has accepted letters to Santa Claus. Back in the day, the notes were all from kids who were asking for toys.
Some still do, of course. But lately it is moms and dads writing to Saint Nick. The post office lets anyone willing look at the letters and choose which ones to fulfill.
WBZ went to the Fort Point Station post office in Boston. Many of the letters there are heartbreaking.
One mom wrote to Santa, saying: “I have little money and no transportation. I know this year is very hard for lots of families but I was wondering if you could help us this year.”
In many letters, parents are pleading their cases as if they’re making an application.
Wrote another: “I’m a single parent, I have no assistance in any form and I pay market rent, utilities and child care. I would appreciate if you can help me.”
“I’m just wondering if I can get a little help with my 15-year-old daughters,” goes another letter. “Their clothes sizes are 9-10 in girls. Anything you do would be greatly appreciated. May God bless you and have a merry Christmas.”
And when the kids themselves write, their letters are sometimes tough to read. “I am 13-years-old and my sister is 7,” one young man wrote to Santa. “We would both like toys this Christmas, but mostly we would like things that will help us keep warm.”
He went on to write that he needs a pair of jeans, and his sister would like a pink sweater.
This year, Santa’s Boston-based post office elves are expecting to get more than 1,300 letters – by far an all time record. They have never received more than 1,000 before.
The problem for many of the families who wrote in is that only about 170 people have signed up to answer those letters. So close to 90 percent will be ignored. And it’s the same story nationwide; millions of Santa’s letters just won’t get answered.
While WBZ was at the post office, we did find a handful of people who were answering these letters.
“That was the tough part, especially when they started asking for stuff for their parents or siblings,” said Ara Najarian.
The Lexington man and his coworkers selected about 15 letters to answer this year.
“We saw a lot of letters where older kids, 9 – 10 year olds saying they were OK but they wanted stuff for their moms or for their 3-or 4-year-old siblings.”
“The stories are sad and that’s why we’re very, very pleased to be able to assist,” said Post Office District Manager Charles K. Lynch.
The post office’s “Operation Santa” program was supposed to end tomorrow, but it’s been extended through next Monday, December 20. You can select a letter from a needy family and help with their Christmas, but you have to go to the Main Post Office at 25 Dorchester Avenue in Boston.
Packages need to be shipped by the 21st to make sure they arrive by Christmas Eve.