Holidays

Dear Santa: Kids' holiday wish lists can be hilarious or heartbreaking

Dec. 13, 2013 at 9:29 AM ET

wish list
Courtesy Drew Magary

For many families, it’s an annual tradition: kids writing letters to Santa or coming up with a holiday wish list.

Sometimes the requests are modest; at other times, heartbreaking.

And sometimes they're just downright hilarious.

Take Drew Magary's 7-year-old daughter, who on this year's holiday wish list included items such as Saige the American Girl doll, a grill, $1,000 and a "little thing that can turn into anything at any time."

"I love that she imagines that such a thing could be made,” said Magary, a columnist for Deadspin and a GQ correspondent who recently wrote about his daughter's "insane" Christmas wish list

And no, she's not getting $1,000, but dad is OK with the doll.

It's the one time of the year when kids can ask for the pie-in-the-sky — even if reality does come crashing down on Christmas morning. Sometimes moms and dads just have to say no to that request for a little brother or a mermaid puppy or a real, live unicorn. 

Other kids have less materialistic but equally difficult-to-fulfill requests, such as 10-year-old Ronnie Harris in Britain, who last month asked Santa only for a cure for his father's brain tumor

It's the kind of letter that Pete Fontana sees again and again as "chief elf" of the U.S. Postal Service's "Operation Santa" program

"We had one that was a request for a wheelchair," he said. "It was a little girl asking for a wheelchair for her grandmother."

Another time Fontana was called down to the lobby of a New York post office to comfort a woman who was crying. She wanted to help a child, but the letter she picked up said: "All I want for Christmas is for you to give mommy a hug and a kiss in heaven." 

Other requests, such as a new toy or a turkey dinner, can more easily be fulfilled by volunteers. 

Fontana has been involved with the 101-year-old program since 1995. Letters to Santa sent through the mail are opened and copied by postal employees, with a child's personal information redacted. Postal customers can then come into a participating post office and ask to adopt a letter, returning later with a gift that is wrapped and postage paid. 

This year, Fontana said he's also seeing a lot of letters from single moms making minimum wage and having difficulty making ends meet, and who just can't afford presents for their kids. 

Currently, Operation Santa is only available in 12 states plus Washington, D.C., he said, as "it’s up to local post offices and the district managers whether they want to participate in this program or not.” 

Sophia, 7, and her revised holiday wish list.
Courtesy Lara Neves

Other parents take matters into their own hands, using a child's wish list or Santa letter to guide their holiday purchases.

Lara Neves, a blogger and mother of three girls in Houghton, Mich., came up with a wish list of needs, wants, things to wear and things to read to help her daughters, and herself, prioritize. 

“I feel like I always go way over budget on Christmas," she said. "I like to buy presents for my kids.”

Determined not to go overboard this year, she helped her daughters learn to prioritize the things they might truly need, such as new shoes, versus items that aren't necessarily must-haves, such as Monster High dolls. Her 7-year-old, Sophia, struggled with the difference and ended up revising her list.

“I think it was a good exercise for her to really think about it instead of just writing a list for things she wants,” Neves said.  

Whether humorous or humbling, we want to see your kids' letters to Santa or holiday wish lists. Share your photos on the TODAY Moms Facebook page or on Twitter or Instagram, using #kidswishlist. We will feature a selection in a future TODAY Moms post. 

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