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France answers the most Santa letters

Fri, 21 Dec 2007
A five year old boy, Yoshitaka from Gifu, from Japan wanted to send Santa Claus his Christmas wish list. His father sent it to France rather than Lapland .

The reason is that France has the largest letter service, answering letters addressed to "Pere Noel". Letters arrive from 126 countries which are answered by 60 secretaries that are employed for the season. The job involves stuffing envelopes with colourful replies written in French.

Marie-Pierre Seize, head of customer relations at La Poste, the French postal service said, "Santa Claus is French, there's no question." According to La Poste, as of 17 December they received 20 per cent more letters than in 2006.

Other countries also have a dedicated team that responds to children’s letters to Santa. The first known system was set up in 1912 in the USA when the Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock allowed mail workers to answer letters. Since then other countries such as Canada, Finland, Greenland, Germany, Italy and Sweden followed suite.

Monique Duniaud oversees the Santa secretaries in France said, "We have a public service mission and what could be more of a public service than answering letters to Santa Claus."

Germany sends out letters in 16 languages. According to Sylvia Blesing, manager of Santa’s Angels at Himmelpfort post office Berlin, "People write to Germany because the real Santa Claus lives here." She is pleased that letters are sent in different languages and added, "We want people to understand Santa's answers."

Last year, 11,000 Canadian postal volunteers responded to 1.06 million letters. Their system is to answer letters in the language they are written. Another reason Canada gets so many letters is because they have HOH and OHO post districts. So any letters with Hohoho go to Canada.

Currently Canada has the world record for sending Father Christmas replies. However with France receiving an increased amount of letters, Canada may lose their title if France submits proof of letters sent to Guinness World Records in London .

The Royal Mail in the UK answers 750,000 letters in English or Welsh. Finland receives a similar number of letters but answers them in 10 languages.

Letters addressed to Pere Noel in France are directed to the dead letter department in Libourne. This is the office where Yoshitaka’a letter would have ended up.

Pere Noel has even got its own website where children can e-mail in their wish lists.

A link goes to La Poste’s online shop where t-shirts, notebooks and snow globes can be ordered. The revenue from sales helps to pay for the secretaries hired for the season. They also donate 1 euro to Unicef or the United Nations Children's Fund.
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