1918 / 2021: Pandemic Letters to Santa

Nearly 100 Years Apart, Children Write of Illness and Oranges

Mr. Claus, resident of the North Pole, pictured here in 2020 and 1918

What was on their Christmas lists?

Children’s letters to Santa have flooded the harried United States Post Office, which has been a workshop in its own right this year. Some of the wish-list items are very much of the 21st century: computers, iPhones, video game consoles like Nintendo Switch/Xbox/PS5, and hover boards. The North Pole must be looking a lot like Silicon Valley these days [in 2021, popular Christmas list items also include L.O.L Dolls, Barbie Dream Houses, a pooping turtle, and PAW Patrol].

Seymour Baylor Country Banner, 1918

Coin please — and not the chocolate kind.

Letters today are notable from their 1918 counterparts in another major way — they’re writing Santa for cold, hard cash. “I had an epiphany on what I want, it isn’t happiness or fulfillment like you see in the movies,” Christopher writes from modern-day New York. “All I want for Christmas is a gaming laptop. It costs $2,500 and my family doesn’t have that money.” A king’s ransom in 1918, and a pretty penny today — I hope you’ve been exceedingly good, Christopher.

USPS Operation Santa, 2020

A blue Christmas without you

From sitting on his knee at the mall to writing a private letter, there has always been something in the confessional act of speaking to Santa that makes kids bear their deepest desires, wants, and yes, even fears and sorrows.

Clarence Courier Newspaper, Missouri, 1918

Joy proves itself to be timeless

Some elements of these pandemic Santa letters prove instantly recognizable, like timeless Christmas carols that are as familiar today, blasting on Spotify, as they were when first sung in piano parlors.

EmailSanta.com

What we can learn from the kids, today and yesterday

As lights twinkle on empty streets and scores of us spend the holidays more like Bob Cratchit than Ebenezer Scrooge, it can make finding joy this season difficult. At times, it feels simply impossible. It is comforting to know, however, that the children who wrote Santa during a pandemic a 100 years ago managed to muddle through, somehow. And, against all odds, they’re finding a way to do it now, too.

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Where culture & consumerism meet. Advertising Strategy Director, Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Ave | Stalk me here: https://www.hellojesswatts.com

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Jess Watts

Where culture & consumerism meet. Advertising Strategy Director, Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Ave | Stalk me here: https://www.hellojesswatts.com