What about children's privacy and safety?
emailSanta.com has a very strict policy about not only respecting and protecting children's safety and privacy, but, when able and appropriate, taking action to safeguard their well-being.
Children's privacy is protected by asking for as little information as possible. Personally identifiable information like last names, phone numbers, street and email addresses are not required. After all, Santa really needs very little information to keep his "Naughty & Nice List" up-to-date!
Children's safety on the Internet is *very* important to Santa so kids are also reminded to check with an adult before sending *any* information over the Internet. (Make sure to see the "Safety Tips for Emailing Santa" below).
What does emailSanta.com do with emails from troubled kids?
Because of his special relationship with children, Santa receives many heart-wrenching emails from kids in difficult situations. In extreme cases, emailSanta.com has contacted and worked with law enforcement agencies to safeguard a child's well-being.
In less serious cases, a special message asking if the child needs help is sent. Children are directed to the Kid's Help Phone and other agencies. Kerr started this practice in 1997 after a little girl who had recently lost her father, uncle and grandfather asked Santa to bring them back for Christmas.
emailSanta.com is a welcoming site full of humour and Christmas cheer and Kerr clearly has a lot of fun being the Head Elf. But running a Christmas website is not something Kerr takes lightly. Kerr consults with child psychologists, parent focus groups and an international group of professional Santa performers about the best messages to send children. As a result, among other things, Santa is careful to explain that the young ones' may not get everything on their list.
Kerr is also tickled by the number of emails from kids apologizing for not being sure whether Santa was real or not before they used emailSanta.com. With emailSanta.com you can show them that if they send Santa an email he is sure to send them back a reply.
1. Go to your favourite search engine and type in "email Santa" or "letter to Santa" to find a list of sites where you can send your Christmas wish to Santa. Or, get a "word-of-mouth" recommendation.
2. Check each site for the information it requires (full names, street addresses, phone numbers or other personally identifiable information is a red flag).
3. Check for and read the site's privacy statement to see what the site does with the information you provide, particularly your email address (especially if an email address is required to receive a reply -- not all sites require this).
4. Without the kids around, send a test message using a disposable email address and wait for the reply. The reply will be an indication of the reply your child will receive. Even young kids can spot a "fake" Santa reply that is just a simple form letter. Such letters can raise questions about Santa's very existence!
5. Once you've found a site that you're happy with, sit down with your youngster to send their Christmas letter. Not only is this a great family activity, it's also a great opportunity to discuss their wish list before they send it off.
6. Discuss Internet Safety with your child while you are writing their letter together. Make sure they understand to *never* give out personally identifiable information like their full name, street address, phone number or email address to a stranger over the Internet -- even to Santa -- unless they check with you first.
How did emailSanta.com get started?
emailSanta.com began when a 1997 Canada Post strike prevented the Head Elfs young niece and nephews from sending their letters to Santa. Solely from word of mouth, over 1,000 emails to Santa were received in a few short weeks. A year later, emailSanta.com was receiving 1,000 emails a day. Now celebrating close to two decades on-line, emailSanta.com receives roughly 1 million emails a year.
How quickly does Santa reply and how does he do it?
With that many emails to answer, it's a good thing, as Kerr says, that "the Internet and Santa's particular brand of magic were made for each other". Santa is even specially equipped so he can reply to emails between stops and the Santa Snooper even lets children watch Santa in his sleigh Christmas Eve. The replies are ready for printing too, something many new parents do as mementos for baby books.
The biggest thrill for families at emailSanta.com is the ability to instantly communicate their wishes to Santa and receive an immediate, intelligent and personalized reply from the jolly old elf himself (faster than red-nosed reindeer fly!). Guaranteed. And if you give him permission, he might publish your email for others to read.
The instant answers captivate children. As one parent wrote to Kerr: "Our six-year-old was so excited she was shaking when we read the reply. The five-year-old just sat with her mouth open."
A Christmas tradition!
Emailing Santa has become a Christmas tradition that the entire family does together. And this new tradition has replaced old traditions fast! According to Tanya Gulevich's "Encyclopedia of Christmas", postal letters to Santa dropped by up to 70% in some areas in 1997 alone, the year emailSanta.com began (although the elves don't really think they can take all the credit for that). According to AOL internet experts, around 250,000 more kids sent Santa their Christmas list by email than by post in 2005.
Kerr has been overwhelmed by grateful parents and grandparents thanking him for "all of the laughs and excitement in our house tonight. If it wasn't for your site we would have been sitting in front of the TV." "After all," Kerr says, "Christmas is about family".
It's also a fun way to find out what the kids really want for Christmas and gives parents a chance to discuss the requests before the kids send their lists.
Sitting together around the computer to email Santa can also reveal some amazing things about the hopes and dreams of children, such as the little boy whose "only thing I want for Christmas is a cure for my brother's diabetes".
Does emailSanta.com charge anything for this?
With emails like that one, how could a real Santa ever charge kids for sending their Christmas wishes!? emailSanta.com is absolutely free -- even when other web sites demand cash for sending a Santa letter, and one actually asked kids to check how much money was in mommy's purse.
So how does emailSanta.com pay its bills?
Kerr, an Internet consultant and a work-at-home Dad to two little elves for the last few years, does find that emailSanta.com takes up more and more of his time each year. Not that he minds. "Working for Santa is a great job. It's great doing something you love!".
With the tremendous growth in the site's popularity, Kerr recognizes that it may be necessary to seek commercial support. After all, a number of other big Christmas sites have been put up for sale or discontinued over the years. But Kerr promises that before he undertakes any such venture, he must be satisfied that it would protect visitors' privacy and be consistent with the site's goal of spreading a little Christmas cheer. Currently, he is testing Google's Adsense as a means of funding improvements to the site.
Those wonderful emails!
And part of what makes working for Santa such a great job is the wonderful emails kids send. In fact, emailSanta.com receives emails from entire classrooms at a time. "I am a second grade teacher and this is a great way to use the internet with children in the classroom!!!". (You can click here to see a small sample of these wonderful emails).
Kerr quickly realized that these emails were just too wonderful to keep to himself and set up a daily newsletter/press release touting the Top Emails to Santa. He discovered that his e-mail messages were forwarded around the world, and were even picked up by newspapers and played on radio stations from Alaska to Australia to Austria.
One seventh grade teacher read the "Emails to Santa" to her students every day, using them to teach her class about the meaning of Christmas. Her students responded by donating $415.50 and 139 gifts to five children staying in a local shelter for abused women.
What other features make emailSanta.com unique?
Kids who love to add personal touches to their letters can upload their creations for Santa to see. Santa receives lots of photos, scanned handmade cards chock full of pictures of toys clipped from advertisements, even video and audio letters. “The PowerPoint presentations are much nicer than the Naughty/Nice pie charts he usually sees” jokes the Head Elf. “Even the youngest kids are incredibly creative and comfortable using computers and the Internet.”
At the site you can also read heartfelt emails that other kids have sent, send your pet's email to Rudolph and view amazing photos of Santa on vacation and shimmying down all those chimneys. You can also vote for which reindeer gets to guide the sleigh this Christmas (that was actually Rudolph's idea according to Kerr) and check the Naughty or Nice List. Anxious children, and parents, can watch the Christmas clock count down to Santa’s visit to their home and peek at a huge collection of Christmas webcams showing all the places Santa sees on his yearly flight -- from the “Silent Night” Chapel in Austria to Graceland, Tennessee.
Kerr is amazed at how emailSanta.com has become a truly global phenomenon. emailSanta.com receives emails from kids of every single age up to 72 years old, from every single state and province in the U.S. and Canada and from over 200 countries worldwide, including countries like Iran, Namibia, Liechtenstein and South Korea. Kerr chuckles when he sees an article about the site written in a foreign language like Russian or Korean. "Good thing Santa can translate those articles for me. Although I did have to do a Spanish interview with Radio City in Ecuador for him one Christmas Eve, which was interesting".
Are there plans to add more languages to emailSanta.com?
In addition to the current English, French and 'animal' (so Rudolph can reply to pet emails), Kerr plans on adding more languages in the near future. French translator and part-time elf Nicole Giguère gave Kerr a price break on the translation because, she says, "I could tell from the first he wasn't doing it for money."
Here are just a few of the wonderful comments emailSanta.com receives:
"i heard of this site through 'steve wright in the afternoon' radio show (BBC radio) where they have a web site of the day. the look on my young sons faces was such a delight when santa's letter came back to them shedding any doubts about santa. i've passed the address on to my friends with young kids and they think it's brilliant.we'll be logging on to keep in touch with you .lots of love dad, mum, jordan and alastair"
"What and excellent site!!!!!!!. My niece spent the day with me and Emailed Santa a letter, the delight on her face will stay with me forever. She was so excited when the reply appeared." – V. Montano
"My husband and I are so pleased about this web site. Our girls have e-mail Santa 2 times already. The girls school wants to do the same with the children. We love the pictures that the girls can color and leave for Santa Claus. We are so pleased. You have thought of everything. You have made my girls Christmas. They said that this Christmas is going to be the best. Thank you so very much. We love this site. Keep up the excellent work. We will be visiting this site often." - Mrs. Pagan.
"After researching the many "send e-mail to Santa" sites on the Web, I decided yours was the best, and wrote it up in a little feature on page 30 (of our “Christmas Friends” magazine) …"
– Rebecca Ortinau, Features Editor, Crafts ‘n Things Magazine.
"Thank you for this site! We heard about it from our friends. My 8 year old daughter said that "I really believe now, I was starting to wonder. Just wait until I tell my best friend". This really made Christmas Eve special for us, Thanks again! Still a believer at thirty something!" Janice
"I would like to thank you for putting a smile on a child. (He didn't believe in Santa) But, he smiled when he got a response to his letter to Santa. He mentioned that he lost his 5 month old sister last year (she died in his dad's hands) this was acknowledged in your response to him. His mood changed and I was amazed at what I saw. Thank you again for this site. I hope this gets to you."
5th Grade Special Education
Veterans' Memorial Intermediate School
"I'm father of a 6 yr old daughter. i was really worried - how'll i
mail my daughter's letter to Santa, which she wrote. Then I came across your Webpage, n I'm
GLAD n THANKFUL to u. Its an excellent way to keep the faith of kids alive in Santa and
the real Christmas spirit. Thanx a ton form all of us. Merry Christmas."
Love Rajesh from India
"What an awesome site you have. I'm not sure how I came across it but am
so thankful for having found you first. My three children were thrilled with each step of the
letter writing. When the reply came back with the radio sounds, I thought my youngest, who is
five, was going to have a heart attack she was so excited. Just a truly warm and exceptional and
tastefully done site. These are the best letters the children have ever sent to Santa. Thank you. Just
Debbie Jo L.
"What fun we had doing Christmas letters to Santa tonight. These letters were just too cute" B. Budler
"What a wonderful website! Thank you so much for creating this. Last year
when my children sent their Santa letters through the mail, my son got a reply from Santa (aka
Postal service volunteers) but my daughter did not. Boy was that difficult to explain!!!! So
this year I will have them both email a letter and they will BOTH get a response! Thank you
again for keeping the magic going!"
"Hi there, Santa Claus, friends and helpers,
I happen to find you really nice website. Lots of painstaking, wasn't it? I look forward to having it all made up in languages from all over the world. I am a father, 50 years of age. Merry Xmas, kind regards from Europe, yours,"
"thank you, thank you, thank you. my daughter loved it!!!! she wants to
ask you how you figured out how to get santa on the internet and she hopes santa comes to her
For more information contact:
Santa's Head Elf
Alan Kerr M.A., B.A.(Hons.), B.A.
15 Royal Oak View N.W.
Calgary, Canada T3G 5L6
ph: (403) 503-0118 --> THIS IS NOT SANTA'S, SORRY!
fx: (403) 217-0381
Email: [email protected]
Please contact to schedule Skype or FaceTime interviews.