Each Christmas season, the United States Postal Service (USPS) receives millions of letters from kids writing to Santa Claus. To help make children's holidays brighter, the postal service runs “Operation Santa,” a program that allows members of the public to play St. Nick and pen responses.

The USPS first began receiving Santa letters more than 100 years ago. In 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock gave local postmasters the go-ahead to open and reply to these missives; by the 1940s, charities, corporations, and volunteers were also providing responses and sending gifts to kids.

Today, the Operation Santa program is headquartered in the James A. Farley Post Office Building (the main USPS building in New York City) and has select satellite locations across the U.S.—and a brand-new website and platform is helping do-gooders around the country spread holiday cheer by allowing them to “adopt” a letter online.

Visit Operation Santa’s website, and browse the virtual mailroom to select a letter. Choose one you love, and the USPS will email you a letter ID. Write a response or send a gift (or both!), and bring your package or letter to the nearest drop-off location. In place of an address in the upper left-hand corner, use the provided ID number (this protects people's identities), and be prepared to provide both a completed Adopter Form and a photo ID [PDF].

Not all post offices participate in Operation Santa, as some might not have the requisite facilities, staff, or location to join the program. To see if your neighborhood location is joining in the fun this year, visit Operation Santa’s website for a list of registered locations.