Losing touch with Santa?

A little girl writing a letter to Santa.

A little girl writing a letter to Santa.

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Little Logan Baker, two, has just posted his first letter to Santa.

Just what’s on his wish list is between Logan and Santa.

The tiny post box at Farmer Parr’s Animal World, Fleetwood, is at just the right height for children - and the elves who help the resident Santa.

The place is packed with Fleetwood’s Surestart families - hundreds of kids and parents have their annual party there.

Santa is waiting in one of the best grottos on the Fylde coast - as ever flanked by a couple of deer.

Someone who looks even more like Santa, minus the costume but complete with real beard, and twinkling eyes, is on the door at Farmer Parr’s, helping usher visitors through.

Most of the kids are too young to play the time honoured Santa or Helper guessing game. Most are also too young to write to Santa.

So they settle for pictures of what they want on a letter - with a big X for a kiss and their name.

There’s already a pile of letters on a table there - as our picture of Santa brandishing them aloft shows. If there’s a little boy called Cody out there reading this now the good news is - your letter’s at the top of the “to be read” pile. And there’s still 12 days to go. Eleven if you count wrapping, packing and Christmas Eve flying time.

Yet writing a letter to Santa is apparently a tradition on the way out in our digital age - along with sending proper Christmas cards.

Lewis Roy, 18 months old, has just met Father Christmas for the first time - properly.

“Last Christmas he was too young to take it all in,” says mum Kayleigh Perkins.

Lewis is her first child, her partner Simon Roy’s second. They are sharing the magic of their child’s reaction not so much to Santa but to the resident deer who have already reached out in the hope of a treat from the little lad.

“He’s mesmerised by them,” says Simon. “We think he preferred the Rotary Club Santa though.”

Both remember writing letters to Father Christmas as children.

Kayleigh’s all time favourite present was her first mobile phone. Correction: “Bike. I think everyone wants a bike best of all. It’s freedom.”

Simon remembers asking for a Scalectrix. “I was thrilled to get one, the best present ever.”

The pair reckon kids grow up faster these days. “I remember writing to Santa until I was about 10 or 11 years old,” says Simon.

“It was still a great way of making people know what you really wanted.”

He fears some of the magic has gone out of the build up to the big day.

“I mean, you can text Santa these days or go online with your wish list, which seems a bit sad,” he adds.“I saw something the other day online, pay a fiver to Skype Santa. Skype Santa? What’s the world coming to?”

The sentiment strikes a chord with many of us. Each letter to Santa carries a child’s innermost hopes - and the belief that a simple letter could make dreams come true.

The tradition is said to date back to the 1890s when an image by American caricaturist Thomas Nast showed Santa sat by the fire, reading letters from children. Sometimes they just left them on the mantelpiece with the stockings.

Postal services have special workers deployed to reply to envelopes marked Mr Claus, North Pole. Our own Post Office has the official Father Christmas postcode: SAN TA1.

Yet a new survey by the Disney Store says a third of parents have no plans to help their kids write or send a letter to Santa this year. But does that mean it’s fallen from grace with kids - or just that parents can’t be bothered to help? The Blackpool branch of Disney stores recently ran letter writing workshops, and donated soft toys to three local children’s charities including Brian House hospice.

Last year the Post Office delivered 16 billion letters to 28 million addresses. It sounds a lot - but that’s 25 per cent fewer than in 2006. That’s a fall right across the board - not just letters to Santa.

There are now endless Santa ‘letter’ websites where kids can tweet or email their requests. There’s already a Santa.com and another which asks “how many cookies can Santa eat” ... yes, and how many tracking cookies will the rest of us be fending off?

It’s a fair bet that the man who’s worn the same outfit for the last 100 years, rather than traded the baggy britches for the latest must have leggings for men, likes things just the way they are. He wants kids to put a bit of effort in, rather than just click “send” and hope parents “buy.”

Quite simply, he likes to know children have put in a bit of effort for their present, not just clicked ‘send’ and ‘buy’.

Psychologist Honey Lancaster-James agrees: “For many our earliest memories of letter writing are associated with writing to Santa, usually with the help of our parents. It’s important today’s families continue to make memories together and create a little Christmas magic of their own.”