Santa Mail Services of Britain and the Channel Islands
Introduction1963 saw the General Post Office step-in to help Father Christmas reply to children writing to him at fictitious addresses like Santa's Grotto. Previously, there were no facilities to send replies and letters were either destroyed, or returned under cover to the parents. (UPU conventions mean that addresses quoting an actual destination country, such as Iceland, must be sent there.)
This kind and human gesture saw each child who quoted their home address receive a Christmas card from Santa, initially with a 'flying sleigh' slogan and a hand-written address for that personal touch. Later, envelopes initially had a pre-printed Postage Paid Impression, and then an imprinted Christmas stamp, all with computerised addresses.
Over time, cards in the Welsh language and for children who wrote too late to get a pre-Christmas response were used, while in 2001, pre-addressed and pre-stamped postal stationery envelopes with notepaper and a sticker sheet for the children to personalise their letters appeared. In 2022 Royal Mail's website had PDFs of cards for home printing, possibly due to postal strikes.
Mail arrives from April onwards, although the deluge does not start until October, increasing rapidly until late December. Royal Mail has employed its own staff, mailing agencies and, of late, Hallmark Cards, to help deal with the mountain of mail because the elves simply cannot cope with the volumes received while they are preparing for the big day. Our story concludes with the similar services offered on the islands of Guernsey and Jersey following their postal independence in 1969.
This display celebrates how the magic of Christmas is brought to life for hundreds of thousands of children by recording step changes to the services in the form of a selection of the envelopes and card designs used down the years. Christmas 2023 marks 60 years of the British service.