by Vuokko Joki, Director of the National Archives of Finland in Oulu and
Tomi Ahoranta, Development Manager at the National Archives of Finland
Letters from All Around the World
I’m going to Tenerife at Christmas and I wish you could come to. It would be really great. Santa could I ask you a favor could you bring me a bring home baby monkey for Christmas please.
P.S. I love you very, very, very much.”
This is one of the first letters to Santa archived at the National Archives of Finland’s branch in the town of Oulu. It was written by a schoolgirl in the UK in 1997.
As commonly known, Santa lives in Finnish Lapland – and he receives huge number of letters every year. Between 1985 and 2018 he was sent some 20 million letters from 199 countries. In 2018 some 100 000 letters arrived from Poland, and some 95 000 from Italy. China and Japan held third and fourth position in statistics. The Santa has his own post office where his elves handle his correspondence. The office is located at the Arctic Circle in the town of Rovaniemi. During busiest season around 30 000 letters arrive daily. Every year almost 2 million replies are sent to all corners of the world.
A Portion of Letters are Archived for Future Generations
Each year a sample of about 30-40 centimetres of letters addressed to Santa are archived by the National Archives in Oulu. The tradition began in 1997. The idea aroused when the staff of the then Oulu Provincial Archives started pondering on which archives they had and what kind of archives they still lacked. They realised that perhaps the most well-known Finn, the Santa, lived and produced documents in their district. It was evident that he clearly needed his archives permanently preserved.
Santa’s archives reveal that the contents of letters vary from region to region. The deepest wish from a child living in one of the world’s crisis areas may be that his family would be saved from the horrors of war. At the other hand, a more fortunate child may send a long list of desired Christmas gifts. Some letters may even contain clippings from toy catalogues. Many also want to delight the Santa as some letters contain Christmas decorations. Drawings and photos are often enclosed. Once a letter contained a piece of wood. It was in case the Santa was lacking the needed raw material for a wooden car.
Most letters are from children but not all. The director of the National Archives in Oulu, Ms. Vuokko Joki, remembers well one letter that was sent from a jailhouse in Stockholm. The sender had no one else than Santa to write to.
The Archive Provides a Window to People’s Everyday Life
A portion of Santa’s archive contains sensitive personal information but most letters are available to all who wish to study them. The archive provides an interesting window to lives of the children in all parts of the world. You can learn, for example, of their wishes, their everyday lives, and their expectations regarding the future.
In case you became curious, you can find Santa’s address on the website of his Main Post Office. With any luck, not only your wish gets fulfilled, but also your letter gets archived to the National Archives in Oulu for the future generations to learn from your life and expectations.
Merry Christmas everyone!