Aspiring Santas have been turned away like naughty elves by post offices around the country.
The century-old Operation Santa program at post offices in New York and other cities are now closed — at least temporarily — to public participation. The program gives volunteers the opportunity to answer letters written to the jolly fellow at the North Pole.
Wannabe Santas arriving Thursday at Manhattan's main post office were greeted by a sign reading, "The Santa letters will be handled by our own dedicated employees as has been the tradition in the past."
Postal Service officials told the New York Times that the abrupt suspension of the program was due to a "privacy breach" by a volunteer. One volunteer who came to the post office to adopt a letter was recognized as a registered sex offender, the Times said. Not taking any chances, the post office took back the letter and contacted the family of the youngster who wrote it. Officials would not tell the Times where it happened but said it was not in New York.
The Postal Service plans to reopen at least the New York program on Saturday. When it does, it will have safeguards in place that will make the holiday tradition a little more anonymous. All the letters will have names and addresses blacked out. Instead, the letters will be numbered. Volunteers will be able to pick up the letters and drop off the presents at the post office, which will deliver them to the hopeful kids who wrote St. Nick.
"This is a program that we have promoted for 100 years that is very near and dear to the Postal Service,” Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the program told the Times. “Everyone wants to believe in Santa. For us to stop this, we feel we are doing the right thing.”