Swedish post offers direct route to Santa

Postal services around the world are gearing up for their most frantic period of the year - ensuring wishful letters from millions of children get through to the jolly fat man running the North Pole toy factory.

But in reindeer-dotted Sweden, where people think of Santa Claus as something of a local identity, the post office is ready to go just a little bit further in the spirit of Christmas.

Any child writing to the chap in red is guaranteed a personal reply and a small gift via a new dedicated Santa service, Posten spokeswoman Eva Appelgren told AFP on Saturday.

Special red postboxes have been installed in the main cities of Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg and Umeå to make sure children’s pleas are whisked straight to the Christmas authorities.

For years, Posten has made it a point of replying to every child’s letter addressed to Santa and posted through regular letter boxes and post offices.

“Last year, we received 200,000 letters,” Appelgren said.

But Sweden’s postal service is not alone in concocting imaginative ways to handle the seasonal deluge.

In Canada, which for years has operated the special North Pole postcode of HOH OHO, 11,000 volunteer “elves” last year responded to one million letters written in 27 languages. They also handled 30,000 emailed inquiries about toys coupled with good-behaviour vows.

In Australia, where the mercury usually zooms past 38 degrees Celsius on Christmas Day, 120,000 children received replies that supposedly had travelled from the ice packs on the far end of the world.

And in the United States, where choice is everything, children can take their pick of four local North Poles to address their letters – in the states of New York, Idaho, Oklahoma and Alaska.