Expect Santa To Write From Newark, Not North Pole

Filed under: Holidays, In The News, Weird But True

Santa Claus, also known as Patrick Farmer, in North Pole, Alaska, holds letters from children sent this year that the U.S. Postal Service says it will no longer deliver. Credit: Sam Harrel, AP

Santa doesn't always know who is naughty and nice. He had a registered sex offender opening his mail for him last year.

Because of the trouble screening elves and other helpers, the United States Postal Service officials are imposing restrictions on their Operation Santa program. This hits the town of North Pole, Alaska, like a blizzard. Volunteers there will not receive children's letters this year to open and answer.

The Associated Press reports that one of the volunteers last year made it to a list someone definitely should have checked twice. He was a sex offender working for Operation Santa some 4,200 miles away from North Pole in Maryland.

Not wanting the play games with children's safety, however, postal officials are abandoning the 55-year-old practice of sending letters to the Alaskan town of 2,100 people so kids can get responses with North Pole postmarks.

A postal worker in Maryland spotted the sex offender last year. According to the AP, the volunteer was dropped before any children's letters were answered. Nonetheless, postal officials are skittish.

All this has led to some disgruntled elves and angry villagers back in North Pole. Like its namesake located ever-so-slightly to the north -- by 1,700 miles -- this North Pole is also heavily associated with Santa Claus.

North Pole is located 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks in the interior of Alaska and features such tourist magnets at the Santa Claus House, boasting the world's largest fiberglass statue of Santa out front. Streets have names like Santa Claus Lane and Kris Kringle Drive. Catholic residents worship at St. Nicholas Parish.

This is a company town.

And Mayor Doug Isaacson is not the least bit jolly about the current situation. He tells the Associated Press he understands the need to protect children, but postal officials are still looking at some lumps of coal in their stockings come Christmas morn.

"It's Grinch-like that the postal service never informed all the little elves before the fact," he tells the wire service. "They've been working on this for how long?"

Operation Santa
is a nationwide program to answer children's letters. However, it has special significance in Alaska. And special obstacles. Because of the Maryland sex offender, officials replace children's names and addresses with computer codes that can only be read by postal service computers. Pamela Moody, a postal service spokeswoman in Anchorage, tells the AP such restrictions just aren't feasible in the far north.

Operation Santa will continue, but unless Alaskans can find a way to comply with the new restrictions by Christmas, children will be getting letters from Santa with postmarks from hometowns such as Boston and Los Angeles, rather than North Pole.

What do you think? Are postal officials protecting children or mucking up a 55-year-old holiday tradition?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.