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A 'real' letter from Santa priceless
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For more holiday seasons than I can remember, I've written about a most vivid memory confirming the Christmas season had arrived. It was the TV commercial showing Santa Claus riding down a snowy hill on a sled that was actually a Norelco electric razor. Yes it's patently commercial. But, as a kid, it stuck out and continued to do so for years afterward.

The spot was even updated and several times including from black and white into color. You don't see any of them anymore, though. They've now been relegated to the files on YouTube.

It's reassuring that some traditions don't change — at least much. Some kids continue to scatter "reindeer food" (bird seed) outside to make sure Santa will stop. Others still leave cookies and milk. Still more write Santa in hopes he'll put them on the "Nice" list and bring special toys. For the latter, this year the Postal Service is offering some extra help. It's actually pretty cool but you have to act fast — as in immediately/now/this minute to assure a special return letter arrives in time!

What the USPS is offering children is the chance to get a personal letter from Santa mailed to them with an actual postmark from the NORTH POLE! To do so, they need to have your child write a one-page letter to Santa. They can include some things that made them "Good" this past year and, of course, some of the toys they hope to find on Christmas morning.

Next, you and the child put that letter into an envelope addressed to "Santa Claus, North Pole." Tell them you will put a stamp on it and mail it to Santa the next day. This is not a lie.

Later than night, remove the letter from the envelope. Now, Santa (you) can write back on the reverse of the letter. You can say Santa is doing this to "go green" and save valuable paper. Then, write telling the child how proud Santa is for them doing something nice, how impressed Santa is with the child grades in a school subject, for feeding or walking their pet or keeping their room clean.

Maybe mention a special toy or two Santa will try to bring. Of course, include something about getting to bed early Christmas Eve so Santa can stop by. Customize as you wish.

Once you've written the response from Santa, put it into a new envelope addressed to your child. In the return address area write, "Santa Claus, North Pole." BE SURE to attach a holiday stamp onto the envelope. You may want to use one of this year's "Santa" stamps for the postage to underscore that it came from Santa.

Finally, mail that envelope with the letter inside of a larger envelope to: NORTH POLE HOLIDAY POSTMARK, POSTMASTER, 4141 POSTMARK DR., ANCHORAGE AK 99530-9998.

The folks at the Anchorage USPS office will remove the envelope you mailed to them and apply a special "North Pole" postmark. Then, they'll put it back in the mail to your child for arrival before Christmas Eve day! (At this late date, you may want to send your child's envelope via Priority Mail. It costs a bit more but the USPS asks for receipt of all envelopes by Dec. 15.)

I realize how many things have changed in this impersonal digital age. Some, definitely for the better. But I have to believe one thing that hasn't is getting a tangible letter from Santa. Especially for younger kids, that's something e-mails and text messages can never possibly replace.

Of course, don't hesitate to get a photo of the letter being opened and, depending on their age, maybe a video of the youngster reading the letter from Santa. Having been a "helper" Santa several times (complete with full costume) I can attest to how much the "real" thing means to kids. Again, nothing digital can replace that.