If ‘tis the season for a sweet documentary about the gift of giving, then Dear Santa fits the bill, or perhaps the envelope. It shines a light on the 100-year-old “Operation Santa” Program of the United States Postal Service. Yes, it’s a real thing that appears to have survived and thrived despite the ups and downs of the USPS itself. The program allows the public to safely adopt letters to Santa that arrive at Post Offices around the country. Hundreds of thousands of letters, mostly from kids – presumably more nice than naughty – revealing their Christmas wishes for everything from toy cars, dolls and puppies, to the gift of love and acceptance. Aw shucks. I’ll take a stack of those. It’s like a universal make-a-wish program for the holiday season, no matter your religion.

The film was obviously shot pre-pandemic, when Santa’s ‘elves’ could show up on a doorstep sans mask, bearing gifts. Fortunately, the program was already advancing into the modern age, with letters getting digitized and categorized for easier dissemination and adoption. Still, there’s nothing quite like holding the real deal and deciphering kid scrawl. The film focuses on select ‘Operation Santa’ centers, big and small, across the nation.

Dear Santa didn’t pack the emotional wallop I felt watching two previous documentaries from writer/director Dana Nachman – 2018’s Pick of the Litter and 2015’s Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World. But they all share a similar aim: to tug at the heartstrings and inspire kindness. What’s not to love about that?

Dear Santa is available in select theaters and On Demand December 4.

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