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A woman in a white dress sits next to a Christmas tree in a room with presents, letters and a Christmas atmosphere.
Children can send their letters to the Christ Child in EngelskirchenImage: Ulrich Hufnagel/dpa/picture alliance
LifestyleGermany

Writing letters to the Christkind, or Santa Claus

Suzanne Cords
November 27, 2022

Every year, children living in Germany put great effort into their Christmas wish lists. These can be sent to several post offices across the country and addressed to either Santa Claus, St. Nicholas or the Christ Child.

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Before Santa Claus started contributing to the task, the traditional gift-bringer in many parts of Germany was known as the Christkind, or the Christ Child. 

With Christmas on its way in just under a month, the Christ Child is already hard at work.

But the sprite-like figure alone couldn't manage to react to all the letters sent by children — which is why there are now a total of seven official Christmas post offices in Germany in towns with names like Himmelsthür (Heaven's door), Engelskirchen (Angel's churches) or St. Nikolaus.

Along with St. Nicholas and Santa Claus, many volunteers are assisting the Christ Child in answering those letters. 

With wish lists coming from all over the world, answers are also written in many different languages beyond German — in English, French, Spanish, Czech, Taiwanese, Chinese, Estonian, Dutch, Japanese and Polish, as well as in Braille and now in Ukrainian.

Who comes bearing Christmas presents in Europe?

Decorated with hearts and stars

Children put great effort into their letters to the Christ Child or Santa Claus. 

"Dear Santa Claus, please bring us nice presents. I'll leave cookies for you under the Christmas tree," writes 7-year-old Amelie. Her spelling is far from perfect, but she has painted her wish list in bright colors and stuck glittering stars onto the letter. 

In their letters, children make a list of the gifts they hope to receive, from unicorns to mountain bikes to PlayStations. Some request the gift of good grades in school, and a friendly introduction is always helpful. 

"Dear Santa, how are you? How's your health? How are your reindeer? You granted me a wish last year, and I want to thank you for that. Now this year I would like …"

Some children are very specific, detailing in which store the toys they are requesting can be found. Other letters are particularly touching: "Dear Santa, can you please stop the war and make sure that everyone has enough to eat?"

A letter in to the 'Christkind' in blue ink with hearts on it.
'Stop the war and feed the world': Not all children's wish lists are for toysImage: Oliver Berg/dpa/picture alliance

This year, the war in Ukraine has preoccupied the minds of children in Germany, joining the COVID pandemic which has been mentioned in many letters over the last two Christmases: "Dear Santa Claus, I hope that COVID dies. Can you take care of that?"

Other children hope to dispel doubts about the gift bearers themselves. 

"Dear Santa Claus, do you really exist? I once heard that you are an invention of Coca-Cola. And if you really exist, are you a good friend of the Christ Child?"

Together, Santa Claus, the Christ Child and St. Nicholas received around 649,000 letters from children in 2021, and just as many are expected this year. 

The largest Christmas post office in Germany is located in the little town of Himmelpfort, in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which received 300,000 letters last year. 

Most of the wish lists come from Germany, but there has also been mail from as far away as New Zealand.

Two children putting a letter in a yellow post box.
The post office has set up special boxes for letters to Santa — but children can also use the regular mailboxImage: picture-alliance/ ZB

How it all began

For children in Germany, the tradition of writing a letter in preparation of the year-end festivities dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. Back then, it was called the Christmas letter. 

However, at the time children did not write elaborately decorated letters to the Christ Child or Santa Claus, but to their parents. And they didn't request gifts, but instead thanked their mothers and fathers while pledging obedience, diligence and good behavior — and asked for God's blessing.

In an example written around 1847, young August wrote: "Dear parents! Not a day goes by without my deep recognition for everything I owe you, dear parents."

A Christmas letter from 1919 shows a drawing of an angel and two lines of script
This Christmas letter from 1919 was sent from Lulu to her parentsImage: akg-images/picture alliance

But as the toy industry developed, manufacturers came up with the idea of ​​handing out wish list forms where children could tick their gift preferences.

In 1950, a well-known German department store addressed those forms directly to the Christ Child or Santa Claus.

Christmas post offices started appearing a decade later. The oldest one is in Himmelpforten in Lower Saxony — not to be confused with the one in Himmelpfort, in Brandenburg. There, in 1962, little Bärbel wrote about her wish for a new doll and a dear brother. She addressed her handwritten letter to "Santa Claus in heaven."

And she got an answer: The local post office manager Helmut Stolberg decorated his letter with stickers and declared it as airmail. From then on, German children knew: Santa Claus really does exist — and he always writes back.

This article was originally written in German.

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