Many of those letters end up at Chicago's main post office. And that's where people can go to help make a Christmas wish come true.
The second level of the post office downtown looks like the North Pole with hundreds of letters to Santa stacked up. Most of them are from children but some are from adults.
There are more than 7,000 letters to Santa Claus downtown. You'd think that most of them would be from kids who want the latest Wii or an iPod. But in most of letters the writers are asking for the basic necessities.
Without revealing the identity of the writers, generous Santas can grant a wish list from a letter of their choice. Then, the post office facilitates the transfer from the Santa to the person wrote in.
"All they really needed was clothes and shoes, so we thought this is somebody who could really use our help," said Larry Turnage of Oak Park, Ill., who answered a letter to Santa.
Turnage brought two boxes of gifts to the post office which will now go to a family in need.
Some of the letters are heart-wrenching. ABC 7 read one that is from a single mother of seven who just lost her job. Another from an 8-year-old boy explains how he is hoping to get shoes for his younger brother and sister.
"When I was first asked to do it, I didn't want it. Then, after I started reading those letters, I realized there are a lot of needy people in Chicago," said Archie Colbertson V, United States Postal Service (USPS) clerk.
"It is hard to pick them out. I want to take them all ... It's a hard decision though," said Marissa Claxon who is also answering Santa letters.
According to the USPS, the tradition of the post office accepting letters to Santa dates back to the 1960s.
"Basically, people all year round send letters all year round, they write Santa ... In the holiday season, we make those letters available," said Mark Reynolds, USPS spokesperson.
For more information, visit www.operationlettertosanta.com/Pages/santa_tips.htm.