Feature Article: Humor & Kindness in Children's Letters to Santa Claus

For well over a century now, it has been a common practice for newspapers to print children's letters to Santa Claus in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. These letters can be charming, loving, funny—and sometimes very moving.

Not only do these letters to Santa capture and brighten the Holiday Season, they can be a surprisingly rich source of family history information. Many newspapers printed the young writer's full name, age, and sometimes even home address—valuable clues for your genealogy research.

What a marvelous genealogical discovery that would be, to find something your great grandmother wrote when she was six years old! Finds like these are perfect to add to the family history scrapbook.

Kenton's Christmas Hope

It looks like the Christopher family was having a tough time financially in 1919. Apparently not able to afford Christmas presents—and wanting to somehow cushion the blow for six-year-old Kenton—his parents told him Santa Claus would not be able to come that year because two of his reindeer were sick.

Not dismayed, Kenton nonetheless wrote a hopeful letter to Santa, adding: "Do not forget to leave something for my sisters, brother and parents."

Belleville News Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 15 December 1919, page 7

Georgie and Charlotte Proclaim Their Goodness

Georgie Freeman and Charlotte Ostan want Santa Claus to bring them lots of gifts, and they are both careful to emphasize how good they've been. On top of this, Charlotte adds: "Please do not forget my brother Tony."

Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), 15 December 1905, page 6

Tom's Advice to Santa

Tom does seem a bit cheeky in this letter to Santa Claus, addressing him as "Dear Old Man." And that poor Billy goat better look out!

Tom's advice to Santa is hilarious: "Ma and Pa are always foolin' about Christmas Eve, but come along and don't mind them."

Haverhill Bulletin (Haverhill, Massachusetts), 2 January 1888, page 2

More Advice for Santa

Like Tom, Helen also had some advice for Santa, ending her letter this way.

Miami District Daily News (Miami, Oklahoma), 11 December 1919, page 4

Lillian's Eagerness for Santa's Visit

Do you remember, when you were a child, how hard it was counting down the days until Santa Claus finally came? If so, this 1920 letter Lillian wrote to Santa will make you smile.

Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, Wyoming), 11 December 1920, page 1

Dickie Thinks of Santa

Rather than making specific demands, Dickie told Santa he'd be thankful for anything—and also thought of Santa's health and snack needs.

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 10 December 1952, page 2

Two "Long" Letters

Most young children are not experienced letter writers, and for some the few lines they manage to jot down for Santa represent a "long" letter and a major accomplishment.

Evening Times (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 24 December 1912, page 8

The Power of Prayer

This little boy listened to his mother's advice to "pray good" that Santa will bring him the steam engine he wants.

Evening Times (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 24 December 1912, page 8

Generosity & Pathos

Back in 1900, these two little girls in Ohio each wrote a lovely letter to Santa Claus:

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 22 December 1900, page 3

Basic Necessities

Not all children asked Santa Claus for toys. Some, from struggling families, were hoping for some basic necessities. This child asked Santa for clothes and shoes.

Chicago Metro News (Chicago, Illinois), 18 December 1982, page 20

These letters to Santa remind us that historical newspapers can be a valuable resource for family history research. Vital statistics can tell you the birth, marriage and death dates for your ancestors—but newspapers can give you their personal stories, the little details that provide a glimpse into their daily lives, their characters, and the times they lived in.

Try to find your ancestor's old letter to Santa Claus in GenealogyBank's online newspaper archives. Search over 165,000 Letters to Santa articles here: