Santa letters on the radio is a lost tradition

Published 6:45 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

By Bonnie Brown

Since Christmas is upon us, I’ve been reflecting on what makes this time of year so special to us. I think it has a lot to do with the traditions we cultivate and hold dear. We may not even realize how important these traditions are until they no longer exist. 

Do you cherish a favorite ornament?  A favorite food—or like me, a favorite cookie.  I remember as a child piling in the car with my parents to ride around our community to look at the outdoor decorations.  And back in my day, they were very simple compared to today’s extravagant displays accompanied with music and the lights blinking in rhythm to the music.  

Email newsletter signup

I remember one very special tradition from my childhood. It began on Thanksgiving evening—the first broadcast of the season of Santa Claus’ radio program in my hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio.  Remember, there were only radio, television, newspapers, catalogs and magazines back then.  

There was no social media to immediately transmit our thoughts or receive other people’s reactions of the day.  So, promptly at 4:30 p.m. each day from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, Santa went on the air and came into our homes via radio, much to the delight of not only the little ones, but the entire family who would gather to listen.

“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa would chortle, reading letters he received at the radio station that outlined what his young listeners wanted for Christmas.  Keep in mind, a written letter was the only way to communicate to jolly St. Nick in those days.  Santa had no web site or phone number to reach him.  

Santa would read each letter, paraphrasing what the child was asking for, and mentioning the child by name. Now and then, he would take a break and allow Miss Merry Christmas to read a story for the children.  Her voice was soft and sweet, and you imagined that she was kind and beautiful.  Sometimes the story would span several broadcasts.  It was a lovely addition to the program. 

This radio-Santa tradition was so very special, as you might imagine. Even when I was older, I listened to the program. Each Christmas Eve, Santa would conclude the broadcast saying that he had just one more letter to read after signing off and that he and Rudolph would begin their world tour immediately after the show. 

So, if you hadn’t heard your letter read on the radio, you were certain that he had your letter in his hand to read after the conclusion of the broadcast.  

Today’s children have Elf on a Shelf and all kinds of technology that allows them to communicate with Santa. These have become the newer traditions, and children will remember them fondly, until they are, in turn, replaced with new traditions.

Fortunately, the tradition of leaving a glass of milk and cookies for Santa is an enduring one.  Now it includes leaving carrots for the reindeer.  What might come next?  A GPS for Santa, or maybe a super-bright LED navigation system to aid Rudolph? Maybe a fleet of drones to help Santa cut down on his travels?

Whatever your traditions, I hope that this holiday season is filled with joy for you and your family.