In 2012, Craig and Crystal Stapley became the messengers for Jolly Old St. Nick after their children kept asking why Santa wouldn’t write back.
“(We) had to explain to them that the reason Santa didn’t write back was because he was too busy getting ready for Christmas,” wrote Crystal Stapley on santasredletter.com. “ ‘But why not if Santa is Magic?’ countered my son one year. His 6-year-old logic was rock solid.”
The idea for a family business was born. The couple began creating letters that were worthy of an embossed Santa signature on heavyweight stationery.
Santa's Red Letter provides a way for parents to send a letter from Santa Claus to their children, complete with a wax seal, embossed signature and postmark from the North Pole. But the Stapleys have more than just the Christmas spirit; they have the entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to teach their children how to work.
The family has been Santa's mouthpiece for two years and plans on continuing to send the letters every year until it becomes “too much.”
Frequent trips to the post office may make the holidays a little more stressful, Stapley said. But her two oldest children, who are in on the secret, help with making sure the names match up and licking the envelopes.
“We want our kids to learn a work ethic,” Stapley said. “If you want to have a job and make something work and be successful, you have to do what it takes.”
Stapley once ran a business from her basement that sold bracelets. This summer, the three oldest Stapley boys sold assembled soda bottle rocket launchers.
“This isn’t our first business, but it’s been more fun because everyone likes Christmas,” Stapley said.
Initially, the Stapleys "just kind of (came) up with" their own letters. But this year, they hired Trish Mercer, the author of the Forest at the Edge series, to be “the voice of Santa.”
Customers can choose from Mercer’s personalized form letters or write their own. The red letters offer congratulations and hints of what Santa will bring the child who wrote to him.
Letters from Santa to adults are also available, as well as black letters that warn the recipient of their possible place on the naughty list.
“We have always done the black letters,” Stapley said. “Last year we had some (personalized letters) that were pretty interesting and we found that a lot of black letters were going to boyfriends or girlfriends.”
Even though black letters are often sent as gag gifts, Stapley said some parents have shared that the letters helped their children’s behavior. Other parents say the letters have suspended their kids' disbelief for another year.
“(It’s rewarding) just knowing that it helps kids believe in Santa a little longer,” Stapley said. “There’s always those mixed feelings of ‘Well, are you going to keep lying to your kids?’ But to me, Santa is the spirit of Christmas. He’s not an actual person, but he’s the spirit of being able to show love more for each other and your family.”
Some of the letters have a religious theme. Those are especially popular outside of Utah, Stapley said.
“Last year, I would say maybe half of the red letters were about how Christmas is more about Christ and giving instead of concentrating on the receiving,” Stapley said. “Sometimes kids, and even adults, lose sight of what Christmas is about. We thought it was important to include letters that people could choose (with that message), and we were happily surprised that people chose the Christ-centered letters.”
According to the Santa's Red Letter website, $1 from the sale of each letter is donated to Toys for Tots, an organization that provides Christmas presents to children who are less fortunate. The organization is especially close to Craig Stapley's heart because of an experience he had growing up. His family moved around a lot, especially after his father went blind at age 35.
“They had just moved in, it was a little bit before Christmas and his dad didn’t have a job yet,” Crystal Stapley said. “They didn’t have anything. He remembers Christmas Eve, firefighters coming to his house and bringing toys."
The Stapleys have five children of their own, so “we know how hard it can be to provide a Christmas for a family,” she said.
The cutoff date for ordering letters is Dec. 17.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: GinnyRomney