A visit from Santa Claus is perhaps the most exciting part of any child’s Christmas and British children have been hanging up their stockings in eager anticipation since the early 1860s.
While examining festive issues of historical British newspapers, researchers at leading UK family history website, Findmypast, have discovered that “letters to Father Christmas” were frequently published in their original wording by local papers during the holiday season.
Findmypast’s research has revealed that, while the tradition has remained largely unchanged, the nature of the gifts requested and expected by children has changed dramatically and continues to do so.
Many letters reveal 20th century children were far easier to please – and requests were remarkably selfless.
Some, from the war years, reveal that even the Blitz couldn’t stop Santa!
From desperately seeking dolls to begging for pieces of fruit, these super-cute letters – many which were printed in DC Thomson and Aberdeen Journals publications – are sure to fill your heart with joy!
Here are a selection from across the country.
DUNDEE EVENING TELEGRAPH
On Christmas Eve in 1928, the Dundee Evening Telegraph published a series of letters that had been sent to Father Christmas by local children.
Eight-year-old Kenneth M Kay of 7 Annfield Row wrote: “Dear Santa Claus, I wish you a Merry Xmas and a happy new year. Please will you give me a flash-lamp, a pencil box and a game of snakes and ladders and a cake of rubber and a pencil holder and please will you give me a ribbon for my cat and I would like you to give me an orange and an apple and when you come down our chimney you will find a cake on the table and a cup of tea for you”.
Meanwhile, eight-year-old Jack Blues of 5 Morn Street, Alyth, wrote: “Dear Santa, I am counting the days till you come. The calendar is quite black with me counting the days. I want a book and a fountain pen and anything else you like. You always know what else to give me. The last time I said that I got a nice Fairy Cycle. With love, Jack Blues”.
Margaret Buick of 71 West Park Street, Cowdenbeath wrote: “Dear Santa Claus, I hope you will remember to visit our house on Xmas eve. I am so wanting a little sewing machine like Mummy’s, to make cloths, and perhaps another doll as mine has lost a leg, and most of its hair, and would you mind to leave some wee thing for our baby, for she did not have a stocking last year. She likes chocolate. A big hug and a kiss from your loving friend Margaret Buick.”
One particularly practical little girl by the name of Alison Cowan wrote: “Dear Santa Claus, I would like a red waterproof coat and hat to keep the rain out of my clothes. I want six handkerchiefs for Sundays and a box of chocolates to eat. Santa Claus I would like to see you, but my father and mother say that if I lie awake, you will not come.”
Sandy Nicoll wrote: “Dear Santa Claus, I am writing – to let you know what I would like in my stocking this Xmas. Dear Santa I would very much like a meccano set, you can make motor cars, build bridges and ever so many interesting- things. Dear Santa do you think I would be selfish if I also asked for a chemistry set? To make invisible ink and other mysterious things, but if it means another boy not getting it I can do without. Hoping you will manage to give all boys and girls present this year. Wishing, every one a jolly Xmas.”
Patricia Wallace of Marybank Lane was dead set on a dolly and a manicure set. She wrote: “My dear Santa, I am longing for Christmas Eve, you will be very busy just now, I would like for my Christmas a dolly a big book, and a manicuring set. Now you want to know the reason why I want them. Well how I want the dolly to keep me comfortable in the house. And the reason why I want the book is to read, when I am fed up with my dolly, and how I want the manicuring set is to keep my nails clean. I am, your loving friend, Patricia Wallace.”
Eight-year-old Jack Gold of South George Street, Dundee, wrote: “Dear Santa Claus, Don’t you think l am lucky having Christmas Day for my birthday. I will be nine years old then. In my stocking I would like an apple and orange and some sweets and also a pair of fur-backed gloves to keep my hands nice and warm on cold days. I would like and Indian set, so that I could be a real Red Indian when I get tired of being an ordinary boy. And also a big boat with sails that I could take to the Stobswell Pond and sail in the Summer time. I would also like the book called “the wonder book of ships” so that I could read all about the different kinds of boats that sail the seas.”
Dorothy Galloway from Errol was keen to ensure Santa stayed warm… by offering him a cup of Bovril. She wrote: “Dear Santa, Xmas Eve will soon be here once more. I do hope you will pop down our chimney. I would be very happy if you could bring me a story book for girls for I adore reading. As I can’t stick nighties do you think I might have some cosy pyjamas? You will find your Bovril as usual in the thermos. With lots of love from Dorothy Galloway.”
Six-year-old Marjorie Clark had a very modest request for Santa. She wrote: “I would very much like a slate, for my teacher said my slate was too wee, also a nice pair of shoes and stockings as I hope to go to a party at the Sunday School. I have a dress, so I need shoes to match, don’t I? I think that is all I really need only of course an apple, orange, and a new penny which we all like in the toe of our stockings. I have still the nice doll you sent me last Xmas for which I shall always love you. PS. Please excuse pencil but I am not big enough to write in ink.”
PRESS AND JOURNAL
Extracts from the Aberdeen Press and Journal
December 24 1949
“Let Daddy Home” read the headline. In Stornoway Post Office, a hat went round staff to answer a letter to Santa Claus from a seven-year-old boy whose father was in hospital.
He asked Santa to make his father better, and for toys for himself and his young brother and sister. The letter is addressed to Santa Claus, c/o His Reindeer, 1 Lapland Avenue, Greenland.
However, the writer realises that Santa may he subject human frailties and encloses threepence so that he “can get the bus if it raining.”
The letter stated: “Will you tell Daddy I am good boy and bring me and Marie and James nice things and I will look after them and will not let James break Marie’s doll anymore and I won’t break James’ toys. Mammy is teaching me how to spell and write, but I can’t do a big man’s writing yet. I will hang my stocking in the kitchen fire, so if you have a train left will you give it to me and a doll’s pram for Marie and a sheep lorry for James and send Daddy home very soon.”
And possibly in the hope that the “personal touch’ will strength his claim upon Santa’s attention, this youthful correspondent concluded: “Mammy knows you. She saw you up town. Don’t be long in writing, please.”
December 16 1901
The following was a letter by Miss Mary Lawrie of Broomhill Road in Aberdeen.
“Dear Santa Claus, l write these few lines to let you know that I have removed from Culter to Broomhill Road, Aberdeen. I was afraid you would not call in as you used to do at Culter, so I hope you will forgive me for telling you. I would like you to bring me a coach, along with the other good things in my stocking, but of course, I will leave it to your own good sense. Dear Santa, if I tell how well I am behaving I am sure you will bring me something nice. The teacher says, that I am the best in my class both at writing and composition, although I do get into trouble now and again for speaking. However, that is not very serious, and, considering that I am only nine years of age, is very pardonable. As my little stock of words is finished. I will bid you goodbye just now, hoping you will not forget your little lassie at the New Year. Wishing you very merry Christmas and happy New year – I remain, your little servant – Marie Lawrie.”
December 23 1948
A remarkably specific letter was published from a little boy named only as “David”.
He wrote: “I want a lot of toys for Christmas. The first thing I want an electric toy set on the main. I want 20,000 lights in the carriages. I want 2200 stations and signal lights on each station. And I want 6000 level-crossings.”
December 25 1902
Among one of the many curious letters received at the Post Office was one addressed to “Santa Claus” from a little six-year-old girl.
“Dear Santa Claus, I beg you bring me great big doll about the size of Arthur, and a shepherd tartan dress; also a pinafore with pink ribbons. Please bring some nuts, oranges, and apples. I would like you to give me pretty dress for Mabel. And my daddy is in the hospital. Send him a present, too, but it is just tobacco and a pipe that he likes
So, dear Santa this is all I can say just now. Be sure and send the nicest doll yon can possibly send me. I wish you a Merry and a Bright New Year. Your little girl, etc.”
Dear Santa Claus, I beg you bring me great big doll about the size of Arthur, and a shepherd tartan dress; also a pinafore with pink ribbons.”
Receiving this letter, “’Santa Claus” sent one of his messengers to the address given, and found the little girl and her two sisters, but who “Arthur” is it was impossible to discover, unless it be some little sweetheart.
The six year-old girl had written the letter without assistance and with implicit confidence, and when “ Santa Claus” found that she had been so genuinely in earnest, he made arrangements for the big doll and other things being sent this morning.
The “daddy” was in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, suffering from an accident, and no doubt the request of his little daughter to “Santa Claus” on his behalf will also be attended to.
December 21 1900
This 120-year-old letter was from eight-year-old Alfred Middleton of Windyraw, Cairnie.
He wrote: “Dear Santa Claus, You are a dear old mannie. I hope you are alive and well, and that your goats are fat and up to the mark. They will have work pulling the carts with Christmas toys. I am at loss to know how you get-into our house on Christmas Eve.
“Papa is careful in locking the door and snibbing the windows, so that you could only get by the chimney. Our chimney is very dirty. I warn you if you come down it you will get your white heard dyed. I want a tool box, but am afraid stockings will not hold it. But I will hang up my drawers on the corner of the nursery bed. If you have any spare pop-guns you can tuck into my stocking, which will hang beside my drawers. Little Edwin wants something to eat – sweets, apples, or oranges. Please put in two of the same kind. He is to give me one. I send you a Christmas card, and wish you very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Yours truly. Alfred Saunders Middleton (aged 8), Windyraw Public School.”
On December 15 1939, the Northampton Mercury printed the Christmas wish lists of local children. Seven-year-old Jon Hawkins of Blakesley wrote a particularly touching letter.
It appeared that Jon was concerned that German air raids might hinder Santa’s progress.
He wrote: “I hope you will be able to visit us as usual this Christmas and not get lost in the black-out. Don’t forget your gas mask. I hope you will be able to find all the little girls and boys who are away from their mummies and daddies, and take them lots of presents. Have you any books in your sack as I should like one.”
I hope you will be able to visit us as usual this Christmas and not get lost in the black-out. Don’t forget your gas mask.”
In 1939, seven-year-old Allan Brown, an evacuee staying at Wadsworth, Wiltshire was keen to do his bit for the war effort.
He asked Santa: “Please will you send a real pick – not a toy pick, but a pick that men use is the one I want. You see, I’m building an air raid shelter. I think the pick will cost a lot of money, so you need not bring me anything else.”
An exceptionally poignant letter was printed in the Dover Express on Friday December 29 1950.
A little girl in Dover had written “to Father Christmas in Denmark” asking if he could “please tell her the name of the person who was looking after daddy’s grave”.
The little girl was Angela Savage of Prioress Walk, whose father, Sgt Thomas Savage of the Highland Light Infantry, had been killed during Operation Market Garden, Holland in 1944.
Angela had decided “that it would make a lovely Christmas present for her mother if she could find out who was looking after her Daddy’s grave”, and she had kept her letter a strict secret.
Her letter was discovered by kind-hearted staff at a Copenhagen post office and a few weeks letter she received a reply.
Signed “Father Christmas”, it read: “I have made inquiries and I am pleased to be able to tell you that your Daddy’s grave is being well cared for by Frau Pistorious, of Bergen op Zoom, in Holland. I am sure she would love to receive a letter from you.”