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I get paid to be Santa's little helper

Tina Morgan (48) leads the communications team at New Zealand Post.

Come the festive season, I have a very important job to do – I’m Santa Claus’ spokesperson, overseeing a team of elves and ensuring no letter to Father Christmas goes unanswered.

We collect all the mail to Santa on his behalf and then make sure that everyone who writes to him gets a personalised response.

It is a big responsibility. Santa would hate to think that anyone who’d taken the time to write to him would miss out on the magic of getting a reply.

Christmas is such an exciting time of the year and knowing that we’re delivering joy and creating a bit of magic is pretty special. We get some beautiful letters sent in – the kids have obviously taken a lot of time to decorate them.

Sometimes there’ll be drawings folded up inside the envelope. It could be their family or something funny, sometimes it’s not that recognisable.

Having said that, one envelope we received had nothing at all on the front – completely blank, with no information – but on the back, right down the bottom, was just the word ‘Santer’ (sic).

We still get a lot of traditional, ‘physical’ letters, but this year we’ve also created an interactive website that children can use to design and send a digital postcard to Santa. If you think about it, the little ones are learning to use iPads at 18 months old these days – it’s just the way of the world. So it made sense to offer them that, plus it’s a lot of fun.

Whatever toy is popular at the time is generally what Santa gets asked for. Lego is always popular – though the theme of the sets changes from year to year. Tablets, iPods and cellphones have become staples, and then there’s the old favourites, such as bikes, books, dolls, lollies and balls.

One of the more unusual ones we’ve received so far this year is from a little boy who has asked for a year’s supply of Gatorade and a pony, but a pony that doesn’t kick! Pets always make the list – this year we’ve had a request for a monkey and one for a penguin.

There are also really thoughtful ones – someone’s written in saying they wish that all the boys and girls who don’t have much of anything get lots of presents from Santa this Christmas – and some quite poignant ones, like the letter from the five-year-old who has been diagnosed with cancer and says she is thankful for her awesome mum and three-year-old sister who are looking after her in hospital, and hopes Santa can visit her.

There’s also the occasional letter from an adult. This one came in the other day: ‘Gonna be frank with you, I’m 22 and probably too old to be sending you postcards but you know what? You’re cool and I’m stressed over exams. Amusing? Then that’s a bonus. Have fun zipping around the road. Say hi to Mum for me.’

We have had a lot of international letters and digital postcards this year, mainly from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Russia. Perhaps they think that because the sun rises in New Zealand before the rest of the world, Santa arrives here first as well, and they’re getting their gift list in early.

Santa started getting letters in the last week of August. In the fortnight since the Write to Santa campaign launched, he’s received more than 5000 digital postcards, and more than 2000 traditional letters.

The elves have been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks – We don't know the exact number yet, but they processed about 65,000 messages last year and in 2014 sent something like 76,000 replies.

Quite a few writers ask for Santa’s phone number, and he gets offers of help. Mrs Claus hasn’t received a letter yet, but Santa often gets asked how she is.

As for me, I did write to Santa, although I’m not sure New Zealand Post was helping him at that stage, it was back in the early ‘70s. I don’t remember getting a reply.”

Quick fire
What advice I’d give my younger self... To be more comfortable in my own “young” skin. With age comes experience and confidence – and of course, it’s easy to say that now.

The best movie I’ve seen this year... Bridget Jones’ Baby – a good movie is one that makes me laugh out loud.

My dream holiday would be... Three months travelling around Italy. I spent a month in that beautiful country earlier this year and I can’t wait to go back!

WATCH: Little girl mistakes stranger for Santa - and he plays along!

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