Meanwhile, the annual pile-up of Santa letters at the DLO—and eventual burning—became a subject of concern. The Boston Post noted in 1869 that "An attempt is being made to have the letter-carriers deliver Christmas letters instead of gifts." A few years later, the New York Times reported that "letters, not presents," were being delivered by the post office.
In fact, since the inception of the modern postal system in 1775, only letters have been delivered by postmen. Present-day mail carriers do not carry packages or parcels and cannot be assigned specific addresses. They can deliver up to 25 letters per hour for an average city carrier or 40 letters per hour for a rural carrier.
When the postal service began, it was considered important for citizens to know how their government was doing. As such, Congress authorized the creation of a yearly report on the state of the service. Called "Postal Reports," these documents served as a guide for policymakers as they developed legislation to improve delivery methods and equipment. The first report was published in 1792 and featured a map showing post offices throughout the country. It also included a list of items that had been delivered via post between October 1 and September 30 of that year.
As the letter burns, the smoke sends the ashes up the chimney, where Santa collects them to miraculously reassemble the letter. It appears to be a ritual for some and the method through which Santa letters are "sent out."
The practice of burning letters to Santa began in the 1930s when postal regulations prohibited the mailing of gifts with attached notes because it was assumed that young children would try to send messages themselves by writing to Santa Claus. Parents believed that by burning their letters they could ensure that their wishes would be granted by Santa.
Children were told that by sending their letters wrapped in colored paper on Christmas Eve, they would reach Santa faster. Some kids even put postage stamps on their letters so Santa would travel more quickly through the mail.
Parents still burn letters to Santa today as a way to release their child's wish list. The theory is that if you can't write a good letter then don't worry about it. Your kid will have to make do with toys or clothes present from family members or friends instead.
Burning letters to Santa isn't without risk. If fire starts during letter burning, it can spread causing serious damage to property and/or injuries to people. In fact, burning letters is one of the most common causes of house fires among children during the holidays.
If Santa can be counted on for one thing, it's reading every single letter he receives. After all, where Santa dwells, there isn't much else to do! He spends the whole year reading letters from youngsters all around the world and responding to as many of them as he can.
In fact, Santa's job is so important to him that he has a special team of elves who only work during Christmas time to send messages to good boys and girls all over the world. They use the same system of delivery that postal workers use today - by airplane, ship, or foot. When kids write Santa directly, he usually adds them to his list.
Of course, not everyone likes Santa. Some children have been known to cry when they find out that Santa doesn't actually travel in a flying reindeer-drawn sleigh but instead uses modern transportation. Others think he's too generous to bother with everyone all at once. But whatever their complaints, most kids know how important Santa is to the holiday season and don't protest too loudly when they find out more about his job.
Santa first made his appearance in the United States in 1823 when the New York Sun published an article written by Ebeneezer Scrooge himself describing how the spirit of Christmas had been brought to life through donations made to poor children throughout the city. Since then, he's become part of the family tradition for millions of kids each year.