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Dear Santa: Newspaper Letters Tell of Days-Gone-By Wishes

From Colorforms to a Shaun Cassidy record, kids have asked St. Nick for lots through the years.

From the days of in the 1860s to the of the digital age, Santa Claus has held a special place in the hearts and minds of local believers young and old.

His appearance has changed little over the past 150 years – a look deemed “modern” when compared to a time when Santa was more commonly known as Father Christmas or St. Nicholas.

For decades, newspapers like the Rochester Clarion and Rochester Era embraced and immortalized Santa Claus as a jolly, plump old man with a snowy white beard and dressed head to toe in a suit of red with white trim, a red cap, and a buckled belt and boots as black as soot.

They printed illustrations from artists like Thomas Nast, who creatively captured the spirit of Santa Claus and his holiday magic in images seen in publications throughout the country.

These newspapers and countless others played a major role in spreading Christmas cheer and reaffirming the joyfulness, goodness and selflessness Santa Claus has long personified, especially during times of economic hardship and war.

Do you believe?

“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

So wrote Francis Pharcellus Church, an editor for New York’s The Sun newspaper, in 1897. These now-famous words were written in reply to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter asking if Santa was real. Virginia wrote to the paper after her father reportedly told her “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”

Church closed his letter to Virginia with, “He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

It’s been 114 years since Church’s prediction. The jolly man in red does indeed live on and so, Patch readers, you well know there is a Santa Claus. Through the decades and centuries, his love for honesty, kindness and compassion has not faltered, nor has his ability to inspire hope and friendship in children of all ages.

In the early 1900s, the Rochester Era printed “A Christmas Creed” written by Martila B. Thomas and perhaps meant to resemble Church’s words of encouragement to Virginia.

“I believe in Santa Claus,” Thomas wrote. “I believe no hair is snowier, no cheeks redder, no smile merrier and no eyes more twinkling than his.

“I believe in the invisible blossom of happiness Santa Claus leaves at every house,” Thomas stated in her creed, “and I believe that it will grow through all the year if people try to keep the spirit of Christmas every day!” 

Letters to Santa

The spirit of Christmas is never as evident as it is in the words of children. Newspaper editors throughout the country thought so, too, as each December many of them printed letters to Santa written by local children.

Letters to Santa then and now reaffirm the message of the holiday season as they brim with a sense of hope and innocence that often seems lost to us as we grow older.

I’ve been told by those in the know that Santa receives just over a million letters a year. For decades, the Lake Orion Review newspaper set up a mailbox just for Santa letters outside its headquarters in downtown Lake Orion. Every Christmas, Santa provided the paper with some of the letters written by local children.  

What follows is a sampling of letters written by area children from 1937 to 1986 (all misspellings were in the letters as printed).

Dear Santa Claus,

I would like to have a electric train and a pair of skiis and a drum. I will leave a dish of Jello for you. – Henry, 1937

* * *

Dear Santy Claus,

I would like a lectric train and a rectter set. Give all the poor boys and girls some toys and please come soon. Are you getting along ok are your rainders ready to come to earth and bring all the presents? So long Santy. – Kenneth, 1937

* * *

Dear Santa Claus,

Do you think you can come to my house this year? You know I will asleep. I want a scooter for Christmas. I think you will come to my house. Could you stay for dinner? We would like you to stay. – Martin, 1940

* * *

Dear Santa Claus,

How are you? The snow is nice and deep out here. This snow is good for sleigh riding . . . Will you be coming to Lake Orion? If you come will you bring me a big doll and skates? – Patricia, 1940

* * *

Dear Santa,

I have been good. I feed the dog . . . and I had a good report card too. And my name is Jeff and I’m 8 and I want a toy Thunder-Burp and two pairs of boxing gloves, that’s all I want. Thank you and may you have a Merry Christmas. – Jeffrey, 1957

* * *

Dear Santa,

I live in Lake Orion. I have been a good girl and want these things for Christmas. Kiddo, sled, dishes, table and chairs, house coat and slippers, washing machine, doll with high heels and clothes. Thank you. – Marion, age 4, 1957

* * *

Dear Santa,

Please bring me for Christmas a jet airplane, a dart set, bow and arrow, fire engine, cannon truck, air rifle, boxing bag, bowling set, Gunsmoke game, Moon Rocket, tool set, army tank, talking robot, smoking train, pair of skates, football helmet, a fanning gun, a sled, Davy Crockett fort, road building set, pop machine, socks, P.J. pants, underwear, shoes, because I have been good all year. Thank you, Santa. – Gregory, 1958

* * *

Dear Santa, 

My name is Bonnie Ann. I’m in the third grade. This is what I would like for Christmas. White sweater, real cross, flannel board, turn a tune, bible, fancy slip, doll with long hair, skating socks, stroller for tiny, snow pants. – Bonnie, 1958

* * *

Dear Santa,

I’m in fourth grade this year. I will try to be good. I’m ten years old. Did you ever get stuck in the chimney? How are you and how is your wife? Did you work hard this year? For Christmas this year I want a paint-by-number set, Struto Road Builder set . . . trick shot gun shoots backward and rocket firing Airacobra Stagecoach Strongbox. I hope you come. – William, 1961

* * *

Dear Santa Claus,

I’m fine. For Christmas I want little Miss Echo, Candy Land, a sled, stroller that you can make 11 different things, play dishes, Popza ball and a snowsuit and some slippers, table and chairs and a bed for my dolls. I hope you have a nice Christmas. – Beth, 1962

* * *

Dear Santa,

We all like you and I please want you to bring me a set of stral cars and putt, putt, speed wax and a pear of house shoes, and Vedy, Bird, Police, Chopper and a pear of pajamas, and stretch arm strong. – Tommy, 1976

* * *

Dear Santa,

I have been a good girl this year. My mama told me so. For Christmas I would like: Dump truck, ice skates, 2 dolls, sled, play skies, Colorforms . . . escape game, sink, record player, records: Shawn Cassidy Sixteen – sick of school. – Jody, 1977

* * *

Dear Santa,

I have been a good boy most of the year. The times that I have been bad, I told mama, daddy and Jody I was sorry. This is my Christmas list: trucks – dump, racing motorcycles, racing cars, candy, Colorforms, mini bike, ice skates. Thank you. – Mason, 1977

* * *

Dear Santa,

How are you? This is what I want for Christmas: a new doll, rolling skates, clothes, E.T. game, cowboy boots, also a new 1982 4x4 truck and a good job for my daddy. Thank you. – Amanda, 1982

* * *

Dear Santa,

I was Santa Claus in a kindergarten play yesterday – that was fun! This is what I want for Christmas . . . a new Tonka-Tonka slamshifter car, Hot Wheels car and a new record player. P.S. Is Rudolph’s nose still red? – David, 1982

* * *

Dear Santa,

I want a Muscle Man Ring and a giant that can climb up. Also a Karate Kid. Thanks. – Nick, 1986

* * *

Dear Santa,

I hope I get bigger. I want snow to come. – Tim, 1986

* * *

Dear Santa, 

How is Mrs. Claus and the elves? I want a Cabbage Patch with cornsilk hair and a puppy . . . You have been so nice to me every year and I want to thank you a lot. And, you are so nice and jolly. For the world I wish that other kids that don’t get toys get some this year and a mom and dad. – Angela, 1986

* * *

Dear Santa,

I thank you for the present you gave me last year. This year I want Kid Sister, Barbie dolls and some other things. I hope Rudolph is doing fine and the other reindeer and Mrs. Claus is doing fine too. And, especially, I hope you are doing fine, Santa. Will you try to make the world be better for people? – Kristin, 1986 

* * *

Local children can still send letters to Santa in time for Christmas. The Rochester Jaycees will set up their annual Santa mailbox on the corner of Fourth and Main streets in downtown Rochester from Sunday through Dec. 16. The mailbox arrives on a float during the .

For more on the life of Virginia O'Hanlon, visit this link to a New York Times article from Dec. 2010.

And if you get a bit nostalgic for some of these toys Santa’s elves no longer make, well, there’s always eBay.

But please, don’t shoot your eye out, kids.

Debbie Larsen December 02, 2011 at 01:56 PM
These are priceless! Thanks, Tiffany!
fulgenzimama.com December 02, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Precious! Thanks for the holiday cheer.
Georgia December 04, 2011 at 03:14 AM
What a lovely article to remind us of love, joy and belief in things of wonder at Christmas. Georgia

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