Last year Aleem Chaudhry bought a small, decorative, Christmas mailbox. “I was going to put it up as a decoration in my house,” Chaudhry tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But my wife was like, ‘take it to the store!’”
The store refers to Gino's Stop-N-Buy, the deli Chaudhry owns and runs in San Antonio, Texas. Immediately kids started leaving letters to Santa in the mailbox, which is when Chaudhry decided each of those letters should get a response.
“The first week we got 10 letters from little kids,” he says. “The rest is history.”
Chaudhry says the letters he receives warm his heart. “The letters are so sweet,” he says. “The kids want simple stuff.”
He says in addition to gift lists the letters are always filled with questions for Santa too — including “Do your reindeers like cookies too?” and “Why do you come down the chimney when you could just use the door?” Some of the kids who send letters are too young to write, so they draw pictures instead; their parents fill out address sheets Chaudhry provides so he can write back to the children.
As for why he took it upon himself to answer all the letters he receives he says simply, “It’s encouraging to get letters back.” Last year he replied to the roughly 400 letters that were left in the mailbox. He says as of yesterday the deli has received 500 letters this year and he, his wife and his team collectively reply to them all.
“We’ll probably get a thousand this Christmas,” he estimates.
Chaudhry adds that a lot of the kids ask for “electronic gadgets” on their Christmas list, but that many of them also ask for something far less consumer-focused: For their parents to have more time at home to spend with them.
“I’m doing this for the Christmas spirit,” Chaudhry says. “Before this it was festive around Christmastime — wearing ugly sweaters, going to parties — but we've kind of stopped the parties because this is taking more time, but this is more fulfilling. At the end of the night I feel fulfilled.”
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