Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credits: JOEL SAGET / AFP 17:03 p.m., November 14, 2023

For the first time since the '60s, a celebrity will take the time to respond to children who send letters to Santa Claus. This year, Santa's secretariat opens on November 14 and suspense writer Michel Bussi takes up the torch.

Hidden under the red coat of Santa Claus this year is the writer of suspense novels Michel Bussi, who has sharpened his pen to answer the million letters that children will send via La Poste, a tender role that no personality has taken on since Françoise Dolto in the 1960s. "I have received your very pretty letter. Thank you, she made me so happy! I still love receiving mail in an envelope that I open with my heart beating very fast": in 2023, it is Michel Bussi who responds with emotion to children who send their letter to Santa Claus.

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Françoise Dolto, the first personality to respond to children

It all began in 1962 when postal workers discovered in the mail being distributed missives addressed to the imaginary character with the white beard. Moved, they decided to answer it, "of their own accord", hidden "in an attic", the law strictly forbidding opening the mail, says David Resse, head of Santa's secretariat based in Libourne (Gironde). The initiative came under the ears of psychoanalyst and paediatrician Françoise Dolto, sister of the then Minister of PTT, who found the approach "brilliant", continues David Resse.

She writes the "very first letter" that will be sent back to the children, with "a little pedagogical touch". Santa's secretariat, managed by La Poste, was born. Since then, its success has been undeniable, with more than a million letters sent per year. This represents "30,40 to 000,<> letters a day to be processed (...), an absolutely considerable figure" because "families attach a lot of importance to this first writing", says David Resse.

This year, Santa's secretariat opens on November 14. After Françoise Dolto, the task has been entrusted to the marketing department of La Poste, and in 2023 the writer of suspense novels Michel Bussi takes up the torch. "I'm very proud to have been chosen," the author, whose novels are filled with "the magic and melancholy of childhood" and who has written for children's literature, told AFP. Michel Bussi had to write a second letter, intended for adults who "still believe in Santa Claus" and who write to him, he says. David Resse confirms that the "marginal" phenomenon exists, with adults looking for "an attentive ear". As for La Poste, David Resse insists: there is no need to put a stamp, but mention the child's address so that the answer can reach him or her and deposit the missive in the circuit of La Poste boxes.