Greetings again from the darkness. In an era when being nasty to those who don’t share your opinion is de rigueur, it’s such a pleasant relief to watch a story centered on generous folks who want nothing more than to bring joy to others … especially those in need. Director Dana Nachman is fast becoming a master of ‘feel good’ documentaries, and this one fits nicely with her recent projects, PICK OF THE LITTER (2018) and BATKID BEGINS: THE WISH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD (2015).
Bringing a smile to our face quickly is the opening where kids excitedly talk about Santa Claus and the letters they write to him. There is nothing more pure than a young child’s hope and belief that someone is devoted to delivering happiness, and yes, presents! A quick history lesson explains that kids have been writing letters to Santa for more than 150 years, and in 1912, the United States Postal Service began Operation Santa – a way to process the letters being sent to Santa Claus each year. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that the program was opened up to the public, and only recently has gone online. These days, it’s a remarkably coordinated effort involving individuals, companies, organizations, and non-profits.
We visit big cities and small ones as director Nachman shows us the impact these “North Pole elves” have on their communities. A ‘Countdown to Christmas’ is used to keep track of the deadline facing each and every person. We see how the USPS has digitized the letters and categorizes according to location, age, and type of request. There is even discussion about the surprising variances in gift requests based on geographic locations. It might also interest you that many adults write letters to Santa each year, although it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that many of these are folks facing tough times, and their requests tend to be necessities like mattresses for the kids or a functioning appliance.
Most of the letters to Santa are heartfelt, and many are requests for others rather than gifts for themselves. Families displaced by fire or divorce will surely strike an emotional chord, as will the reactions of the “elves” reading the letters. Delivering the many donated gifts requires a highly coordinated effort – especially when live animals are involved. Yes, sometimes pets are requested, and again, the joy on the faces of those receiving gifts may only be equaled by the smiles by the givers.
The true spirit of giving at Christmas is on display throughout, and we have director Nachman to thank for bringing this to light. There are so many generous and caring people involved with the program, and their goal is to make sure others experience joy at this time of year. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more, the website is https://www.uspsoperationsanta.com/