Writing a letter to Santa Claus is an exciting part of any child's Christmas. Children in Britain have been hanging up their stockings in eager anticipation of Santa's arrival since the 1860's. While the tradition has remained largely unchanged, the gifts requested and expected by children has changed dramatically and continues to do so. After examining our collection of historic British Newspapers, we have found that "letters to Father Christmas" were frequently published in their original wording by local papers during the holiday season.
On Christmas Eve in 1928, the Dundee Evening Telegraph published a series of letters that had been sent to Father Christmas by local children. 8 year old Kenneth M’ Kay of 7 Annfield Row wrote:
"Dear Santa Claus, I wish you a Merry Xmas and a happy new year. Please will you give me a flash-lamp, a pencil box and a game of snakes and ladders and a cake of rubber and a pencil holder and please will you give me a ribbon for my cat and I would like you to give me an orange and an apple and when you come down our chimney you will find a cake on the table and a cup of tea for you”.
8 Year old Jack Blues of 5 Morn Street, Aiyth, wrote:
“Dear Santa, I am counting the days till you come. The calendar is quite black with me counting the days. I want a book and a fountain pen and anything else you like. You always know what else to give me. The last time I said that I got a nice Fairy Cycle. With love, Jack Blues”.
Margaret Buick of 71 West park Street, Cowdenbeath wrote:
“Dear Santa Claus, I hope you will remember to visit our house on Xmas eve.” I am so wanting a little sewing machine like Mummy’s, to make cloths, and perhaps another doll as mine has lost a leg, and most of its hair, and would you mind to leave some wee thing for our baby, for she did not have a stocking last year. She likes chocolate. A big hug and a kiss from your loving friend Margaret Buick.”
One particularly practical little girl by the name of Alison Cowan wrote:
“Dear Santa Claus, I would like a red waterproof coat and hat to keep the rain out of my clothes. I want six handkerchiefs for Sundays and a box of Chocolates to eat. Santa Claus I would like to see you, but my father and mother say that if I lie awake, you will not come.”
Ten years later, on December 28th 1938, the Western Morning News published a series of letters written by children from the Plymouth district that had been collected by the assistant post-master, Mr A. Wingett. Wingett, who was described as being "in the confidence of Father Christmas", told how he had received letters to Santa from children of all ages, variously addressed "to Father Christmas, others to Santa Claus, Fairyland, Daddy Christmas and Toyland."
One such letter was written by Margaret Kingdo of, 69 Alexander-road. Margaret wrote:
"Please Father Christmas, bring me a knitting set, knitting bag, Snow white book, sewing box, small things and post office set". The letter concluded “If you can afford it."
In another, signed ‘love Maurice’, a little boy wrote:
"Dear Father Christmas, I heard you speaking on the radio, and I hope you won’t forget me on Christmas Day to fill my stocking, If I am a good boy. Mummy will write and tell you later whether to come to me or not. That is if I am a bad boy.”
The following year, on December 15th 1939, the Northampton Mercury also printed the Christmas wish lists of local children. Five year old Edith Whatton, of Hartwell asked Santa for a "new big dolly with hair like mummy’s that I can comb, and with a pink ribbon", while seven year old Jon Hawkins of Blakesley wrote a particularly touching letter.
It appears that Jon was slightly concerned that German air raids might hinder Santa's progress. He wrote:
"I hope you will be able to visit us as usual this Christmas and not get lost in the black-out. Don’t forget your gas make. I hope you will be able to find all the little girls and boys who are away from their mummies and daddies, and take them lots of presents. Have you any books in your sack as I should like one [sic]”.
An exceptionally poignant letter was printed in the Dover Express on Friday December 29th 1950. A little girl in Dover had written ‘to Father Christmas in Denmark’ asking if he could “please tell her the name of the person who was looking after daddy’s grave”. The little girl was Angela Savage of Prioress Walk, whose father, Sgt Thomas Savage of the Highland light Infantry, had been killed in the fighting in Holland in 1944.
Angela had decided "that it would make a lovely Christmas present for her mother if she could find out who was looking after her Daddy’s grave”, and she had kept her letter a strict secret.
Her letter was discovered by kind-hearted staff at a Copenhagen post office and a few weeks letter she received a reply. Signed "Father Christmas", it read:
“I have made inquiries and I am pleased to be able to tell you that your Daddy’s grave is being well cared for by Frau Pistorious, of Bergen op Zoom, in Holland. I am sure she would love to receive a letter from you."