I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Santa. I’ve never encouraged my kids to believe in him. But despite me, they’ve both chosen to believe. The one thing that’s convinced my daughter, more than anything else, that Santa is real is a website, emailSanta.com.
My daughter used the website last year and she’s used it again this year. She sits there, writes a letter to Santa and hits “send”. There’s a pause, and she gets the message that Santa is reading her letter, then the message that Santa is writing back to her. The anticipation builds to an almost unbearable level. And then comes the reply.
The reply is personalised way beyond what you would expect. Apart from addressing her by name, and making reference to her age and how good she’s been, there’ll be a comment about the toys on her wish list. For example, if she’s asked for a Hatchimal, the reply might say, “I hope we can make enough Hatchimals for everyone this Christmas. We put a few in the sleigh for a test flight. They kept breaking out of their eggs and riding the reindeer! In case I can’t leave you a Hatchimal this Christmas, let me just say now that I’m sorry.”
I know. Genius, right?
If my daughter has sent her best wishes to Rudolph, the reply might say, “Rudolph came running when I told him that you mentioned him in your email!”
I wrote a letter myself to test the service. I explained that I was 47 and wanted a bottle of wine. After commenting that I was practically old enough to be one of his elves, Santa joked, “You add a whole new meaning to me delivering Christmas spirit with that wish for wine!”
Ho, ho, ho.
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It’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into setting up the website and constantly updating it to take in new toy crazes. The man behind it, who calls himself “Santa’s head elf”, is Alan Kerr, who lives in Calgary, Canada. The internet consultant and dad of two has been running the site for 20 years. He started it when a postal strike meant his niece and nephew couldn’t send letters to Santa.
The site now gets more than a million emails every year, and up to 10 a second on Christmas Eve.
“Why have I been doing this for the last 20 years? Simply put, for the love of it,” Kerr tells Mamamia.
“The same reason Santa has fantastic ‘stunt doubles’ everywhere. It’s a calling. It can be an emotional roller coaster, but the magic of children sharing their wishes and dreams with you is a very powerful honour and responsibility.”
“I love getting the emails from parents who sat down with their child to email Santa saying how much fun they had. One child even wet themselves.”
However, it’s not always fun. Sometimes kids reveal in their letters that they are in “dire circumstances”.
“Kids trust Santa so much they will tell him things they wouldn’t tell anyone else, even their own parents,” Kerr explains.
The service is set up to recognise certain trigger words that suggest a child is in a bad situation. The reply will then include a link to children’s helplines that they can call, as well as a special direct email address.
“I’ve worked with psychologists, police officers, etc, to help kids in every imaginable situation,” Kerr says. “It’s the dark side of being Santa.”
Although it’s obviously not possible for Kerr to read all the letters, he does dip into them regularly.
Here are some of his favourites:
Please be quiet when you come down our chimney. By the way, it hasn't been swept for a while so if you could have a bit of a brush on your way down I would be grateful. - Chris, 9, Wakefield, United Kingdom.
Mummy and Daddy say I have not been very good these past few days. How bad can I be before I lose my presents? - Christian, 7, Colchester, United Kingdom.
Can you take my baby sister Sophie back to where she came from because she cries too much and always has a dirty nappy? Instead can I just have a toy baby doll because it is quieter than my sister? - Emily, 6, Mackay, Australia.
Can I have a cleaning lady just to keep my room clean? - Sophie, 7, Paris, France.
I know you've been watching, and I have been trying my hardest to be a good girl. I haven't been picking my nose either. - Vaida, 4, Tucson, Arizona.
Mommy would like Santa's elves to magically help Daddy finish the new kitchen. - Philip, 6, Manchester, United Kingdom.
We won’t give the reindeer any beans *wink* *wink*. - Brittany, 8, London, Ontario.
Do you think it would be possible to get my daddy a new back? He threw his out years ago and he just doesn't remember where! - Shelly, 9, Auckland, New Zealand.
Thank you Santa for introducing my mom and stepfather last year. The best Christmas present I got so far was that they just got married this month. But I still would like it if I could get the Nintendo too. - Saoirse, 11, Carbury, Ireland.
I really like you even though people say that you’re fat. Being fat doesn't mean that you’re a bad guy. I mean, fat people have character. You’re the best! - Elliott, 12, Bendigo, Australia.