USPS Operation Santa Starts TODAY: Adopt a Letter & Play Santa to a Family In Need!

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Here’s how you can participate in the USPS Operation Santa letter submission & adoption program.

kraft brown paper gift with holiday ribbon and santa gift tag

Here’s a thoughtful way to give back this holiday season!

Here at Hip2Save, we truly love sharing all the latest deals with you, and we’re so thankful to play a part in making the holidays more affordable for families all over the country! Unfortunately, there are still a lot of families in need who struggle around this time of year while trying to provide their loved ones with a memorable holiday season.

Luckily, the USPS is running its Operation Santa program once again this year, and it’s the perfect opportunity to help others and give back! Starting today, November 20th, you can “adopt” letters and help another family!

USPS truck

What’s Operation Santa?

Every year, the USPS receives tons of hopeful letters to Santa. Instead of tossing these heartfelt letters, the USPS decided to respond and the initiative became known as Operation Santa.

Today, the USPS collects letters and holiday wish lists from families all over the country. Once the letters are accepted and the writers’ personal information removed, they’re put “up for adoption” for folks from all around the US. Those that adopt can then purchase the wish list items and get them to the families with a little help from the USPS.

It’s a safe way to spread the holiday cheer and help other families have the best holiday possible.

For weeks, the USPS has been collecting those letters & soon they are up for adoption!

girl writing letter to Santa

If you’re looking to be a part of the Operation Santa program this year, you’ll be allowed to adopt up to 15 letters starting today, November 20th! If you haven’t signed up for the program already, you’ll need to create an account to verify your ID and register to participate.

Here’s how:

  • Select “register & verify ID” if you haven’t yet. Note that even if you’ve participated in the past, you’ll need to renew your registration each year. Preregistration begins on November 6th.
  • Create an account and verify your ID and password. If you aren’t able to verify your ID online, you can visit one of the 19,000 participating Post Office locations with a Label Broker service.
  • After you’re approved, you’ll receive an email with detailed information on how to join in and make the most of the program by adopting a letter or letters. You can begin adopting letters now!

Businesses are also welcome to take part in the USPS Operation Santa program, but every individual participant will need to go through the verification process.

cookies and milk for santa

Looking to submit a wish list? It’s not too late!

Through December 11th, you can write your letter to Santa, enclose it in an envelope with a First-Class Mail stamp, fill in your complete return address including apartment number and directional information (if necessary, ex. E Main St, Apt 103), and Zip Code, and mail it to Santa’s official workshop address:

Santa Claus
123 Elf Road
North Pole, 88888

If you’d like some inspiration and tips, the USPS has a helpful guide for writing the perfect letter to Santa!

black mailbox

Plan to participate? Here are some key dates to remember:

  • November 6: Preregistration and ID verification begins for adopters
  • November 20: Letters are now available for adoption; make sure you register first.
  • December 11: Last day to place wish list letters in the mail.
  • December 18: This is the last day for adopters to adopt letters and ship their packages. Adoptions close at 8 pm ET.

See our latest deals on all the hottest gifts!

About the writer:

Kara is a writer and photographer from the Midwest. Her creative work has appeared in various publications over the past decade. With a background in finance, she loves to be money-savvy.

Join The Discussion

Comments 37

  1. AGoodall

    Looks like it’s already crashed; it’s telling me that it will have letters ready in 13 hours. I tried to adopt 4 unsuccessfully with it saying they were claimed by others… and MANY of the letters that are up there are kids asking for full size dirt bikes or ATVs, and parents looking for full size red SUVs and such. Numerous iPad requests and gaming PC requests. It’s very hard to find reasonably priced gifts that I feel comfortable giving, and all 4 were already snatched up as I tried to do the ones that were asking for stuff around $200-300 worth. Just FYI to anyone looking to do it. I’m hoping to find the right letter to spread some Christmas cheer and I’m trying to not be too disappointed!

    • BlueWaterGirl

      I still like the Angel Tree through the Salvation Army since I have found the same thing in the past with Operation Santa. We also prefer to buy for the elderly who may be forgotten and need things like warm coats or blankets.

      • chesca

        AWESOME IDEA. Thank you for my new Christmas tradition. 💖

        • BlueWaterGirl

          ❤ My pleasure!

      • AGoodall

        I don’t even know how to find an Angel Tree near me. Do they do that online now too? I also got several ornaments for my senior citizens through my local PD/COA who do a tree every year. Toiletries, soaps, deodorants, and weirdly a bunch of them asked for mixed nuts! But we do that too <3 It's my favorite season to gift and I always try to budget to have a little for others. Bummed about USPS Operation Santa so far!

        • dylanfan

          Depends on your local Salvation Army if they do it online. My Walmart had a tree in it, as does the mall. I’d google your local Salvation Army call and ask them.

        • BlueWaterGirl

          They do have some Angels online for your local area and I think they’ll tell you where you can find some of the trees as well. You do have to bring the gifts to your local Salvation Army but that’s no biggie since I think they are in most places.

        • BlueWaterGirl

          I responded below to part of your post but I love doing those little things as well. They are fun treats for them and thanks to this Hip2Save community, we have so many opportunities to find those items so cheaply. #groupeffort #spreadthechristmascheer

    • Misty Dawn Russell

      We just found out about this. Never heard of it till today. The kids were just going to ask for help with groceries. They are teens and they know I struggle to keep food on the table! Idk if anyone would adopt us for that or how that would work? They said if they want to get us anything other than that it is completely up to them. They’d rather have a full belly!

    • Alycia

      If you want I will share with you my letter for my children, I have not sent it yet.

  2. Trisha A

    My girls, age 5 and 7, filled these out tonight and plan to mail in the morning. Any idea if they should be mailed together or separate?

    • Andrea

      The website said to include both in the same envelope.

      • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

        Thanks so much for the helpful response, Andrea! ❤️

  3. Misty

    We just learned of this. I have a 12 yr. Old girl and 2 boys age 14 and 16. They just want me to write a letter asking for help with groceries and snacks. They know im not going to have money to buy anything good. They’d rather have a full belly! Maybe someone will help. We are turning our letter in today! Last day to submit!!

  4. Halee

    Hopefully it is better than last year. We sent letters in, never got anything. We adopted a family with 3 kids as well. Sent their packages off. In addition to the gift request, shippping was $75 and their packages never showed delivered. There was a group online of people posting pictures saying thank you and some posting we recevied gifts for another family. It was a HUGE mess!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh bummer! 😔 Thanks for the heads up on how last year went for you, Halee. 💗 That does sound like a bit of a mess. Hoping they have worked out all the issues from last year and this year goes much smoother! 🤞🎄

    • Hjoplin

      we wrote letters last year and never received anything either.

      • Kristi

        So did we. Which I understand not everyone gets picked. We are gonna give it another try this year

        • Taryn S

          Hi! I highly recommend the ‘Random.Acts of Christmas’ subreddit. The vetting process requires several.steps, but typically entire wishlists get purchased.

  5. Ruth

    I hate to be debbie downer, but this program has turned into a marketing ploy by the post office. For many years, the main post office in NYC had a program where all local letters addressed to Santa were placed in a special room and anyone could go in and be a “secret Santa”. One just picked up the letter and was free to handle it whatever way they wanted. I did this for more than 20 years. One thing I liked about the program was that I could tell from the address whether or not the person really needed help. Many of the school children in low income neighborhoods would make a class trip – they would learn how to write and address the letter and would take a subway to Manhattan to deposit the letters in the special Santa mailbox in the lobby of the building. However I would estimate that about 60% of the letters came from addresses not generally associated with low income and they never asked for items of great need, but wants, usually of expensive items. Now, I am not saying that your zip code determines your needs and you never know individual circumstances, but I prefer donating to those who I know that without the assistance of others, will have no Christmas and every child deserves a special gift at the holidays. One could usually tell because in the letters they never asked for something for themselves or toys, it was always clothes, shoes, a toaster oven to be able to have hot food etc. I could purchase the items and use the free delivery offered by whatever vendor I purchased from. We generally adopted three families each year.
    Now the program is completely different. One must mail the letter and use a forever cent at the cost of 66 cents, previously letters to Santa did not require postage. One has no idea where the people they are trying to help are located – I prefer to help my neighbors. And the absolutely worst part – Secret Santa must send the packages via the post office using priority mail – which is one of the most expensive methods of shipping. The post office now has a lower cost alternative for shipping packages called ground advantage which also offers tracking but if you want to participate in Operation Santa, you must use priority mail and if your adopted family is in another part of the country, the postage costs could end up costing more than the actual gifts! I use a great shipping service (PirateShip) which provides great discounts on both UPS and USPS, but I would be unable to utilize that – only full price priority mail retail is allowed which is why I now believe this program has lost its original purchase and now is a marketing ploy by the post office.
    The last couple of years I have helped out local senior citizens – there are a number of low income senior citizen buildings in my area and many of the residents have no family members or no one near by. Many rely on social security as their sole source of income. The suggestions for donations included warm clothes, lightweight warm blankets, slippers, various teas, candy (I stock up at Costco at Halloween time and buy the big bars which are always appreciated). I also include gift cards for local eateries.
    I am sad that the USPS Santa program is not what it used to be – my family and I looked forward to reading and selecting three letters and purchasing items for others. But I want as much of my donation dollars to go to actual items and not the cost of shipping.

  6. Jessica Mitchell

    I have 6 kids and a grandson and anything will help I have a 20 year old a 18 year old a 16 year old a 15 year old a9 year old a 7 year and a grandson who is about to b 2 and anything we will b thankful for

  7. Ashlei Matthews

    I love helping and adopting children for Christmas, as I am a teacher. However, I can’t afford to buy my own children a PS5. Some of these items are unrealistic to ask Santa for. It is always my belief that Santa provides gifts for all girls and boys! Kids DON’T need parents to grow broke just because of the “newest” gadget! If you can afford it, great. However, most of us wanting to help, can’t.

  8. Sarah

    I just spent fifteen minutes reading letters… It really upset me. There was only one I saw that didn’t ask for a laptop, a PS5. Xbox, or Apple tablet. It’s shocking and sad. So greedy. I don’t know what kind of parent would be okay with their kid writing that and hoping they’d get it.

  9. Christina

    We’ve done this for 3 years and never received anything. my 4 yr old (first year we did it) cut out pictures of toys and I wrote it for him and pasted the photos. Last year was the first year he wrote it himself and attached pictures as well and still nothing. Maybe 3 affordable things. I was wondering if anyone actually received gifts.. I’ve always looked for our letter and of course can never find them each year but always see expensive items or adults asking for vehicles, rent payments, ect.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      So sorry to hear you haven’t received any items from the wishlists, Christina. ❤️ Love that your kiddo includes pictures with his list. If you haven’t done so already, you might reach out to some local organizations in your community that may have a similar mission to this. Hoping you might get a list fulfilled this year! 🎅🤞

  10. Connie

    This is the worst example I have ever seen of some very unacceptable requests ever!! I hope not one of them receives anything that they requested. You can tell these children most of them would not be asking for thousands of dollars worth of items if they were truly in need. The best one was the parent who is asking to have her house furnished And asking for jewelry. The post office isn’t going to get anybody to fill these ridiculous letters. I highly suggest people go into Walmart on the giving tree local schools you would be surprised how many schools in your area are in need of items and lastly, toys for tots.

  11. AngieM

    Does anyone know how to sign up for salvation army to give a donation or adopt a letter? Bc these requests are ridiculous!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi there AngieM! I was able to do a search for “Salvation Army Angel Tree” along with my city/state in that search to find the nearest locations to me. 🎄

      • AngieM

        Thank you🎁

        • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

          You’re welcome! 🥰

  12. Lauren

    They really should have a evaluation these things they on here are crazy!’re asking for

  13. Katie

    We tried last year and didn’t receive anything. I limited my children to ask for one main thing and one additional thing but they were each reasonable toys, in the $20-30 range at most and no electronics. Someday I hope to be able to be the one giving the gifts!!

  14. Madison

    When I adopt a letter, do I need to get everything on the child’s list? I want to be able to get one or two things and would hate for them to not get other things on their list because I can’t afford it.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Madison! This is a great question! I spotted the answer in their FAQ for you –
      Do I have to buy everything the child asked for?
      No. You can respond however you’re inspired to. Some people fulfill one or two of the child’s wishes, while still others may choose to grant all the wishes listed.”

      Hope that helps, and happy “adopting”! 🎅🎁❤️

      • Madison

        Thank you Jessica! I would just hate to not get something on the child’s list that they really want. I feel bad that they would only get one or two things for Christmas and mabye not the item they wanted most.

        • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

          You’re welcome, Madison! ❤️ Definitely understand how you’re feeling, as I’m usually the same way. Personally, I know my nieces make lists with all kinds of items on them to send to me, but don’t necessarily expect to receive each item, but more as just choices of things they’d like to have. 🎄🎁

  15. Dequandrala Hudson

    I wished I know about this 2 days ago ! Could really use the help.

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