Customs

The Jolly Old Elf With a Jolly Ol’ Address

Many people have difficulty remembering to stay on Santa’s “Nice” list throughout the year, but remembering his address is much simpler.

Postal workers in Montreal, Canada were perplexed with the number of letters addressed to Santa Claus. The policy back in 1974 was to return as undeliverable any letter with an incomplete address, but they knew children would be horribly disappointed to get their letters back, stamped with “RETURN TO SENDER — ADDRESS UNKNOWN.” Rather than ruin the holidays for all of these children, the postal workers decided to volunteer as honorary elves and respond to the children on Santa’s behalf.

The practice started well before Santa got an email address, and the number of letters addressed to St. Nick only increased as each year progressed. In 1983, the Canada Post created an official Santa Claus letter-response program. Today, Santa receives more than one million letters from Canadian children each year. To handle this avalanche of mail, more than 11,000 volunteers chip in to help Santa with his correspondence. Most of these volunteers are current or former postal workers, donating an average of 21 hours each and helping out from multiple locations throughout Canada. They take great pains to respond to each letter in the language in which the original letter was written.

Santa gets so many letters that the postal service gave him his own postal code. Since he has a lot on his mind, always having to know who’s been naughty, who’s been nice, who is sleeping, and who is awake, the postal service decided to ease his burdens by giving him a postal code that is easy to remember: H0H 0H0.

Unlike the ZIP code system of the United States, which consists entirely of numbers, the Canadian postal code system uses alternating letters and numbers. While Santa’s may appear to spell out his hearty laugh, it is, in reality, a series of alternating H’s and zeroes.

For those who want to send their wish list and a list of reasons why you should not be included on the Naughty list, send your letters to:

SANTA CLAUS
NORTH POLE H0H 0H0
CANADA

Of course, this close to the big day, you might want to speed things up and give the jolly old elf a phone call. Just be sure you dial the right numbers, or you might end up calling NORAD’s hotline by mistake.


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