(OMTimes | Liane Buck) Dana Nachman is an award-winning filmmaker of both fiction and documentary films. Dear Santa is about The United States Postal Services’ program called Operation Santa.
The dear santa project: an interview with Dana Nachman
DEAR SANTA shines a light on the 100-year-old ‘Operation Santa’ Program of the United States Postal Service. Each year, hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa arrive at Post Offices around the Country. Through Operation Santa, the United States Postal Service makes it possible for the public to safely adopt these letters and make children’s dreams come true. The film invites audiences along for the magic of this massive endeavor.
While traveling throughout the Country, like Santa does on Christmas Eve, the “DEAR SANTA “film focuses on select ‘Operation Santa’ Centers.
Some of these operations are in metropolitan areas like the massive operation in New York City. In contrast, others are found in small towns where the Post Office is the community’s heart.
The timeless documentary captures the warmth and spirit of Christmastime through the lens of this great American tradition, provoking audiences throughout the world to ask themselves how they can make the world a better place, one gesture at a time.
The dear santa project
Opening the window to the many facets of the United States Post Services.
Father Noel has been part of every child’s imagination in this world. The many narrations about his MO may vary. Still, the message and intentions behind the kind gift-giving character continue to be the same.
On Dear Santa Project, the United States Postal Offices play an equal and important part in keeping the dreams of Christmas night alive for thousands of kids.
Their “Elves” are intimately involved in all stages of this process, from the many letters to making sure they find their destination.
It is historically registered that Children started to send Christmas letters to Santa 150 years ago.
The Story goes like this: Back in 1907, Santa Reached out to the US Postal Services and asked them to help deliver the Thousands of Letters he gets every year.
Nowadays, their partnership grew exponentially into a massive nationwide Program called “OPERATION SANTA.”
Many Children believe that only the Post offices know Good Mr. Claus’s real location and address.
Independent of where you are or what you may believe. Operation Santa is a message of hope. The movie is proof that there is still goodness in this world. For more than a hundred years,
Americans have brought cheer, compassion, and hope Through Operation Santa through good and hard times.
Origin of the legend
When barbarians took over the Old World, a series of celebrations tried to alleviate the severe temperatures and the lack of food that took over Europe in late December. In this situation, the “Old Man Winter” legend appeared as a gentleman who beat up people’s homes asking for food and drink. According to the myth, whoever served him with generosity would enjoy a milder winter.
The association between Old Man Winter and St. Nicholas appeared many decades later. According to historical accounts, Saint Nicholas was a Turkish monk who lived during the 4th century. Christian tradition tells that this clergyman would have helped a young girl not to be sold by her father, throwing a bag full of gold coins that could pay for the girl’s wedding dowry. Only five centuries later, Saint Nicholas was recognized by the Church as a saint.
How did the image of the plump old man with a white beard come about?
At the end of the 19th century, the German designer Thomas Nast had the idea of incorporating new elements into the good old man’s image. To this end, he published in the North American magazine Harper’s Weekly the drawing of a Santa Claus who, to the present day, most resembled a forest gnome. With the other Christmases’ passing, he improved his original design until the old man gained a protruding belly, good stature, and an abundant white beard.
Despite the outstanding contributions from Nast’s experimentalism, we still have to unravel the origin of his reddish clothing. Several drawings had already portrayed Santa Claus in costumes of the most varied shapes and colors. However, in 1931, Haddon Sundblom, hired by the Coca-Cola soft drink company, came up with the good old man’s clothes’ red pattern. Over time, the popularization of the brand’s advertising campaigns ended up setting up the standard.
OMTimes had the opportunity to converse with director Dana Nachman about operation Santa.
Dana Nachman is an award-winning filmmaker of both fiction and documentary films. Nachman’s 2018 feature documentary “Pick of the Litter” was sold within 48 hours of Its premiere at the Slam dance Festival. Soon after, it was released theatrically by IFC Films.
Born and raised in New York, Nachman graduated from Trinity College in Harford, Connecticut, with a dual degree in Middle Eastern Studies and International Relations. She went to earn a master’s degree at NYU On Broadcast Journalism.
Dear Santa is about The United States Postal Services’ program called Operation Santa.
Santa is Thrilled to see the film cut of the film ready for his viewing this Christmas.
OMTimes: What motivated you to tell this story?
Dana Nachman: About eight years ago, my mom bought me a book about Operation Santa. About the United States Postal Service’s program that helps Santa get all of his letters answered. Every year around Christmas time, I would read this book to my kids, and I would think, what a fantastic book, but I thought a film about it would be even more amazing.
I loved the backbone of the story about the magic of childhood and the hopes and dreams of kids (and some adults too.) The thought of being able to lean into the fantasy of Christmas made me very excited. To focus on all of the human elves that spend the time to make these dreams come true also was exciting to me, all the while understanding that much of the time when we do things for others, we are the ones that get the most out of it! To make a film that focuses on this, one of life’s biggest hacks, was thrilling to me!
OMTimes: How does the Dear Santa Operation work? Do you know the real numbers of Elves involved in the entire United States Operation?
Dana Nachman: Thousands upon thousands of letters come into the United States Postal Service each year to Santa. For more than 100 years, USPS has been helping Santa respond to all the messages. Santa has also allowed USPS to adopt certain letters because he obviously has letters from all over the world to deal with. USPS puts many of the letters up online, and anyone can apply to be an elf and adopt one or several of these letters. Last year more than twelve thousand people became adopter elves. All people have to do is go to https://www.uspsoperationsanta.com/ to read the letters and choose the ones they want to adopt. This year’s letters go live on December 4th, the same day that our film comes out. I adopted some letters last year with my mom, and we had so much fun being elves!
OMTimes: During the movie, the children’s type of requests changed according to their geographic region. Why do you think this happens?
Dana Nachman: One of the mailroom elves in the film told us that when they read all of the letters, they notice that kids from different areas of the Country ask for some other toys and gifts. I guess it’s because different trends hit different areas of the United States!
OMTimes: Can anyone volunteer to be an adopter elf in their own community?
Dana Nachman: Anyone can volunteer to be an adopter elf. And one of the coolest parts of it is the whole thing is totally anonymous. USPS redacts all of the personal identifying information. When you pick out a letter that speaks to you, that child can be from anywhere in the US. If you want to choose them from your city, you can do that too! When the child gets the present, it just comes from Santa and his elves.
OMTimes: Do you have to be a non-profit organization to become a lead elf or become part of the Post Office program?
OMTimes: Did you have personal contact with these “miracle works”? Tell me a little bit about the people involved in this network of kind hearts across our Country.
Dana Nachman: I met all of the elves in the film through the production process. I didn’t know any of them before. I loved to get to know each and every one of them. I love to be connected in my life with people my grandmother referred to as “doers.” These are the people who spend their lives changing the world, not being spectators! It was amazing to experience first hand as these people worked throughout last year’s Christmas season. Many of us got a few letters, and then there are many people in our film who had to rent U-Haul trucks to deal with all of the presents they were giving. These are really the kindest and most generous people globally and to be around them is infectious. Just makes you want to go out and help! And what strikes me the most about what I have learned about Operation Santa is that many of the elves’ people give even though they might not have a lot themselves. This is such a beautiful part of the program. As one of the amazing women in the film says, “It’s not what you have that matters, it’s what you do with what you have!” AMEN!
OMTimes: 2020 was and continues to be a strange year. Aside from the Pandemic’s strangeness, the Post Office had suffered direct political attacks during this peculiar year. Was the “Dear Santa Program” target? How can ordinary people continue to assist the Post Offices and support the “Dear Santa Program”?
Dana Nachman: I absolutely loved working with USPS. Our collaboration on this movie started with a cold call email I sent to the USPS press office. I told them I wanted to tell this Story, and I was so lucky that they trusted my team and me with their beautiful Story! Every shoot that we had where I got to interface with USPS staff really was a joy. They were all salt of the earth people trying to make our communities stronger through their everyday work and this program! I was so impressed by the hundreds of USPS workers I got to interface with on this film. I am not aware of any problems this year with Operation Santa, and I know USPS is very excited to launch on 12/4.
OMTimes: During the movie, I noticed children’s presence and participation in making other children come true. In your opinion, how important is it to involve children in this tradition?
Dana Nachman: I love the thought of children helping other children! I think it’s excellent! At my kids’ school, I know they have a giving tree where kids can pick from the tree and give kids things that they need around Christmas. I can see my kids and their friends have always liked the feeling of helping others. I think it is an excellent idea, in general, to empower kids to be change-makers. Often children feel they have no authority to make a difference, and this is a shame! This program is fantastic because kids can read the letters and pick out those that speak to them. They can wrap and decorate and are excited to know that Santa has tasked them with this important honor!
OMTimes: Let me build a little bit on the last question. Do you personally believe that we should teach compassion in schools?
Dana Nachman: Oh my, yes! Don’t get me started with this year and the lack of compassion we see all around us! The more we can teach children about helping others, empathy, and kindness, the better! I think Operation Santa is a straightforward and fun way to do this!
OMTimes: My last question to you would be: can you reveal the real address of Santa at the North Pole to our audience?
Dana Nachman: Absolutely. I would love to. For children who want to write to Santa Claus, send letters to 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888
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