DEAR SANTA: Capturing The Spirit Of Christmas And Community

When thinking of the holiday season, thoughts of eggnog, mistletoe, and presents are nestled below the tree, wrapped in the imagination and spirit of Christmas. For many, it is the chance to see the ones they love, while for others it is the chance to bring good will to all. For the youngest of citizens, it is the moment they have waited all year long for – the arrival of Santa. But before the encompassing warmth of Christmas morning can envelop each mind and soul, preparation is needed and wishes are professed with the earnest of desires.

The act of writing to Santa is a cherished tradition for many each holiday season. For over 150 years, children (and adults!) have embraced the spirit of Christmas, asking Santa to bring not only joy to themselves, but to those around them. But as the population and the desires of children continued to grow, Santa was on the look out for a little extra help. Enter the United States Postal Service in 1907, with their team of elves to aid Santa in not only delivering his letters but in fulfilling Christmas lists of those young and old.

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa, from director Dana Nachman (Pick of the Litter), opens to the youngest of talking heads, little children describing Santa, crafting their holiday artwork, and revealing their thoughts on how the big man in red accomplishes the seemingly impossible every year. Immediately, through the eyes of its littlest contributors, Dear Santa captures the innocence and imagination of childhood. You are a real Grinch if you do not find these children bringing an instant smile to your face and warmth to your heart. As the documentary shows, this is not a children’s holiday, the magic and spirit of it finds the perfect personification in the children that immerse themselves in all its wonderment. Whether you have children, nieces or nephews, or not, from this moment, the emotional foundation has been set as to why the existence of Operation Santa is one of the most vital nonprofits during the holiday season.

DEAR SANTA: Capturing The Spirit Of Christmas And Community
source: IFC

Beginning 3 weeks before Christmas (which is when the letters are first made available for adopting and fulfillment), viewers are whisked from the framework of children into the well-oiled machine that makes it all possible. There is a magical aura to the postal workers and the conveyor belts within the USPS processing center – further heightened by Johnny Mathis’ “We Need A Little Christmas”. Gone are the industrial feelings of production, replaced with the enchanting and enriching joy of those working behind the scenes. Dear Santa continues on from here, juxtaposing the children once more explaining how they believe the letters reach Santa once given to the mail person to a visual montage of how it all actually works. And spoiler alert, we as viewers are treated to an inside look at The North Pole, where all the letters are sorted and digitized.

From this point, and throughout the rest of the documentary, viewers are taken to various points of the country, speaking to the nationwide reach of Operation Santa. From Postmaster Bill’s USPS in Arizona to Head Elf Janice in Chicago, New York City, Michigan, and California, the breadth presented in Dear Santa speaks to not only the programs reach, but the wide range of hopes, dreams, desires, and even needs of children around the country. Each USPS facility is shown encompassing the spirit of Christmas, the lives they touch immeasurable. Where many have found their tragedies similar to those in the letters written to Santa, they persevere, giving back to the community and helping to bring comfort to those around them. It is their strength that keeps the program alive, drawing more and more individuals in and encouraging the return of others.

The Power of Community

Where the documentary finds an even deeper strength is not only inside the USPS but in those who have made the season their chance to target the needs of families throughout the nation. Adopter Elves, as they are fondly called, have the ability to adopt letters and fulfill the wishes within – many times giving such things as mattresses, food, and toys to the underprivileged. Some even target the letters that encompass families of 5 or more, as they are the ones typically passed by, to ensure everyone is given a bit of Christmas cheer and families have what they need. For many, what started off as one letter a year has amassed into 65 or more. Through charities, auctions, and community programs, letters are further funneled to the public through the help of the Adopted Elves who, much like the USPS workers, help to keep the program alive and thriving.

DEAR SANTA: Capturing The Spirit Of Christmas And Community
source: IFC

Dear Santa is a film that will require the accompaniment of a box of tissues. While there is joy interlaced throughout the film’s celluloid, there is also sadness and heartbreak. Children speak of their Christmas wish being the desire to return home – everything takin from them and their families in the Paradise, CA fires of 2018. Even adults utilize the magic of writing to Santa, asking for help in their gravest times of need – many times only for the betterment of their children.

And the tears are likely to come as well as you begin to hear of some of the letters provided, one child asking if Santa is okay with those in the LGBTQ+ community and another asking for something for their mother who does all she can to care for him. There is a genuine innocence and compassion in the words chosen for the perfect letter to Santa, love caressing each stroke of their pencil or crayon. Though not all the tears this documentary threatens to draw out of you will be of sadness, as the overwhelming charity of others, the gracious thankfulness of the recipients, and undeniable acceptance of the magic of Christmas at times is had to resist.

Conclusion: Dear Santa

Dear Santa is a film that proves love and charity are all around. Especially in a year that has presented unimaginable challenges to many, knowing there are programs that are willing to deliver joy and individuals to fulfill them gives hope to a holiday and to the future. Dear Santa shows that Christmas is not just for children, but for the communities and the heart. Santa Claus is a concept that humbles the soul and reignites the innate need of community. The illusion of magic and belief in the impossible, either created or encompassed, is needed by all.

As one of the teachers reminds her children, “It’s not what we have, it’s what we do with what we have that matters.”

Calling all Elves! Operation Santa will be releasing its 2020 letters on December 4, 2020 for all those who would like to adopt a letter to make a Christmas wish come true. Click here for more information on how you can participate this season. 

Have you see Dear Santa? What did you think? We want to know!

Dear Santa will be released on VOD on December 4, 2020. 

Watch Dear Santa

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