(NEXSTAR) — Along with the adorable penmanship, hand-drawn images and sometimes-ambitious gift lists, this year’s letters to Santa also contain evidence of the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on children.
The letters are part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa. Each year letters to the North Pole pour into mailboxes across the country in the hundreds of thousands, according to the USPS. People can see the letters online and “adopt” them, purchasing the presents and fulfilling children’s Christmas wishes.
In years past, requests often range from heartbreakingly basic, such as socks or food, to extravagant things like a live horse, but this year some of the letters revealed just how brutal the pandemic has been through children’s eyes.
“I have not had a good year my grampa died and I could not see him because of covid. I miss him and his big hugs,” Maine 6th grader Lilly wrote. “Santa can you bring grammy a puppy so she is not so lonely?”
A 9-year-old girl named Alani, who asked for Legos and a gift card to help her mother, wrote, “Dear Santa this year has been rough … because of crona … my mom said she can’t get anything for me for christmas because she is not getting paid as much so she cannot aford anything,” according to CNN.
“The program has always been about providing holiday gifts for families who may not have the means to provide for anything more than basic everyday needs,” Kimberly Frum, a spokeswoman for the USPS told People in an email. “This year, there are likely more families impacted financially and emotionally.”
A 13-year-old from Texas named Kimberly told Santa in her letter that this year “has been rough” on her two brothers, sister, mother and stepfather.
“My stepdad is the only [one] working and because of Covid-19 he had to stop working full time. Now he is working less because of covid, and all the money he gets is for paying the rent and the bills,” she wrote.
Kimberly’s wish list wasn’t just for her and her siblings this year, however.
“My parents think I am writing this for my siblings and I, but I want to surprise them for everything that they have done this year,” she wrote, asking Santa for a winter jacket for her stepdad and a workout machine that her mom has “been wanting so bad for so long.”
Some addressed the pandemic directly in their letters – Barron’s first sentence to Santa reads: “Please make the Corona virus go away.”
Jonathan, from North Carolina, included a mask on his four-item wish list.
Others described how life has changed for them in 2020.
A Massachusetts child named Savannah wrote:
What I want for Christmas is, a few lego sets (hard ones), some baby clothes, solar system stuff, paint pens, (sic) jappeness stuff, if possible a reborn toddler, and a nintendo switch.
– (p.s.) I’m sorry if I’ve been bad. It’s really hard because of Covid-19, and online school (school in general) I’m trying to be good. Hope you understand.”
California brothers Andy, 5, and Brix, 3, wrote:
Merry Almost X-mas! I know you are busy, but I hope you can read this letter. It is from me and my brother. We both have been very good. Sometimes we fight, but still love each other. We would like a Nintendo Switch to share. I know it is a lot of money so it’s OK if we don’t get one. Thank you, Santa! I wish covid was over so we can hug.
Operation Santa traces its roots to 1912 when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized postal workers and citizens to respond to the many letters that would pour in addressed to Santa, according to the USPS website. The flood of letters grew so great that the Postal Service turned to charitable organizations and corporations for help in the 1940s.
For more information on where to send letters and how to help children and families in need, see the USPS Operation Santa site.