Answering letters to Santa Claus

Author: Young Kim and Mary Raffalli / AP
For more than 90 years, letters from across the globe have found their way to the post office in Santa Claus, Indiana, where teams of elves keep up with the mail. Credit: CBS News

In southern Indiana, in a town of just over 2,500 people, one name stands out everywhere you look … on the hardware store, the community center, even the fire department (with trucks named after some familiar reindeer). But the town’s most important distinction? It has the only post office bearing Santa Claus’ name.

For more than 90 years, letters from around the world have found their way here, to Santa Claus, Indiana.

Pat Koch, along with her self-styled team of elves, do not busy themselves with making toys; for them, it’s all about keeping up with Santa’s mail. “That is our ministry, is getting a letter to a child,” she told correspondent Nancy Giles.

But within reason: “We don’t ever promise – ever, ever, ever – a present,” Koch said.

She explained the history: “It was in 1930 that ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ had a cartoon saying, ‘If you write to this little town in Indiana, you’ll get a letter.’ And the postmaster received over 100,000 letters.”

It all began in 1856, when the town’s application for a post office under the name Santa Fee was rejected. (It was deemed too similar to Santa Fe, another Indiana town.) So, the postmaster suggested Santa Claus, and the name stuck.

Today, Santa Claus receives about 30,000 letters.

Koch explained to aspiring elf Giles, “Here’s the thing: you can’t just walk in off the street and do this.”

Giles found that out, the hard way, as she tried writer a letter to Dillon, who wanted “a robot that has a button to make it dance.”

“That’s not how Dillon spelled his name,” noted Koch.

“Ahhh! Okay. I already messed up!”

Correspondent Nancy Giles finds out from Pat Koch what it takes to be one of Santa’s helpers.
Credit: CBS News

Koch, 90, has been one of Santa’s helpers ever since she was a child: “My father brought letters home, and we put them on the dining room table. And that was when I learned that letters were really important and that I, as a little girl, could help.”

Her dad embraced the role, dressing up to look like Santa, and leading teams of letter-writers. “He visited the postmaster down in the town and saw that he was getting all these letters, and said, ‘He needs help. This needs to be taken care of. This needs to be organized,'” said Koch.

There are do’s and don’ts when replying to the children of the world, especially because they ask a lot of questions.

“You cannot believe how kids were so concerned about Santa getting COVID. Very, very concerned,” Koch said. “And they didn’t know if he could come visit, and if Mrs. Claus was okay. It was almost heartbreaking.”

“How did you answer those kinds of letters?” asked Giles.

“Santa was fine, Santa had gotten vaccinated, and Santa would be okay,” she said.

These elves always have ready answers: Santa’s favorite cookie is chocolate chip. Reindeers love carrots. Mrs. Claus is always “fine.” As for how do the reindeer fly? “It’s simple: It’s magic,” Koch said.

Credit: CBS News

“For kids who are being told by their friends there’s no Santa Claus, what’s your response to something like that?”

“Absolutely, positively there is a Santa Claus,” Koch replied. “Santa Claus brings joy and happiness to people, and that will always be.”

And it’s that kind of Christmas spirit that Pat Koch and the rest of the town’s elves have tried to carry on, one letter at a time.

Giles asked, “I know you’ve answered so many letters over the years. But are there some for you that stand out?”

“I remember especially one letter that I will never forget,” Koch said – which came with a house key attached. “He said, ‘This is the key to the front door. We don’t have a chimney. And I want you to be able to get in!'”

At Christmas, remember Santa knows all, because there are elves who listen.

“That’s what’s wonderful about children writing letters, is they really do just tell you,” said Koch. “And, you know, we cry. We laugh. We share. I think it’s good for them, and good for us!”

For more info:

  • Santa Claus, Ind.
  • Letters to Santa will be answered by Santa’s Elves if received by December 18, 2021. Send your letter to:
    Santa Claus
    P.O. Box 1
    Santa Claus, Ind. 47579

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