Monday, April 22, 2024

In Himmelpfort, Germany Father Christmas solutions kids’s letters

HIMMELPFORT, Germany — Whereas American kids have lengthy been sending their Christmas lists to the North Pole, in Germany, Father Christmas could be discovered a lot nearer by — within the jap village of Himmelpfort or Heaven’s Gate — and he’s more likely to put in writing again.

Virtually 40 years in the past, postal employee Kornelia Matzke unwittingly turned her city into the main focus for kids’s yuletide needs when she began answering the letters that confirmed up in her small city submit workplace.

It was 1984, Germany was divided into capitalist west and communist east the place Matzke lived, when two letters caught her eye within the mail sorting room. Despatched by kids in East Berlin and Saxony, additionally within the east, they have been addressed to Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) in Himmelpfort, which is about 50 miles north of the capital Berlin.

“I couldn’t carry myself to throw them away,” she recalled, now 64. After asking a colleague if letters to Father Christmas had arrived earlier than, she was informed they have been saved away. Within the hope of spreading some seasonal magic, Matzke replied — on behalf of Father Christmas and she or he grew to become the primary Himmelpfort “angel.”

Phrase unfold and within the subsequent 4 years increasingly letters got here. She and her colleagues would reply round 75 letters each December. When the Berlin Wall got here down and Germany reunified, the trickle grew to become a flood and 1000’s of letters started to reach day by day within the run as much as Christmas.

By 1995, Deutsche Submit, Germany’s home mail service, employed two helpers. Right now, that quantity has elevated to twenty to take care of greater than 300,000 letters from 60 nations — together with American cities from New York to Philadelphia to San Diego, the place apparently youngsters had given up on the North Pole.

Accompanied by Christmas songs on the radio, 4 angels wearing shiny gold robes sit round a desk within the festive submit workplace, embellished from ground to ceiling. From mid-November, they tirelessly work by crate after crate of letters to make sure that every one receives a reply by the afternoon of Christmas Eve — when presents are historically delivered in Germany. Their work is interrupted solely by sporadic exclamations at a very inventive or amusing letter.

Gone are the times of handwritten replies however the printed response, created with the assistance of Matzke, not less than mimics the looping cursive of handwriting (both in German or English). The addresses on the envelopes are handwritten.

The desires over the a long time have mirrored the altering occasions and traits. From hopes for the newest gadget to longing to see grandparents throughout the pandemic years. Some, nonetheless, by no means exit of style. In 2022, the highest needs have been good well being for the household, world peace, a white Christmas, dolls and automobiles.

Within the last push earlier than the large day, even Father Christmas — wearing his iconic brilliant crimson, floor-length gown — is available to lighten the load. A quiet knock prompts him to go away his work and open the window the place Max, 6, has come to ship his letter by hand after a three-hour drive along with his grandparents from the city of Bitterfeld.

Two massive eyes peer out from beneath a rain sodden jacket and widen on the sight of Father Christmas on the window. With a deep breath, Max bursts right into a rendition of the Christmas music, “So viel Heimlichkeit in der Weihnachtszeit” (A lot coziness/secrecy at Christmas). His want listing is strictly for Father Christmas’s eyes solely.

“In spite of everything these years, that’s reward and motivation sufficient to hold on the magic. Particularly at present when the times are lived so quick,” mentioned Father Christmas, returning to his desk to a platter of festive treats. “A few of the sweet comes for the children. They know what Father Christmas likes,” he laughs, patting his midriff.

Himmelpfort is one in all seven Christmas submit workplaces round Germany and stays the nation’s largest and the one location within the nation’s jap area. But it surely isn’t simply Father Christmas who receives want lists in Germany. Relying on family and native custom, kids may also write to St. Nicholas or the Christ Youngster — an angel-like determine in a flowing robe, with blonde, curly hair.

By and huge, historically Protestant areas within the north and east are visited by Father Christmas, whereas the historically Catholic areas of the west and south obtain a name from the Christ Youngster. St. Nick’s work is completed by Dec. 6 on his feast day.

“There’s not any competitors,” Father Christmas chuckles. “It’s simply regional variations. However Father Christmas has remained the large one.”

After virtually 40 years of answering Christmas want lists, Chief Angel Matzke and her angelic colleagues don’t have any intentions of giving up their work anytime quickly.

“It’s great what this grew to become,” mentioned Matzke. “Individuals might have given up. However that’s why each baby ought to get a letter again — in any other case we cease believing.”

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