Dear Santa: Then and now

Dear Santa: Then and now

“Dear Santa…”

As Christmas nears, millions of children around the world are using these two words to begin their letters to Santa, with the hope he will bring what they want.

These letters are often sent by obliging parents to Santa’s home at the North Pole. However, back in time, it was popular to send “Dear Santa” letters to a local newspaper, which published them.

Our newspaper collection includes over 120 million pages dating back to 1609, and a quick search using the keywords “Dear Santa” brings really interesting results

With the holidays just around the corner, we took a look through MyHeritage’s historic newspaper collection on SuperSearch, to see what presents children were asking Santa for a century ago, and to compare them to today’s most popular gifts.

The further back we looked, the more interesting – and frequently more simple – the requests became. It added color to the lives and times of our ancestors, particularly when we looked at what children are asking for this year.

Here are the most commonly requested presents from 100 years ago:

1913: 100 years ago (based on research on “Dear Santa letters,” found in the historical newspaper collections on SuperSearch)

  1. Candy
  2. Nuts
  3. Rocking horse
  4. Doll
  5. Mittens/Gloves
  6. Toy Train
  7. Oranges
  8. Books
  9. Handkerchiefs
  10. Skates

This is what’s topping the contemporary wish-list:

2013: What kids are asking Santa for this year (based on estimates by leading retailers (Toys’R’Us, Target, Walmart and Argos)

  1. Furby Boom
  2. Teksta Robotic Puppy
  3. LeapPad Ultra
  4. Flying Fairy
  5. Big Hugs Elmo
  6. Barbie Dream House
  7. Giggly Monkey
  8. Nerf Gun
  9. Ninja Turtles
  10. Lego

In some ways, we can see the similarities, a doll for a Barbie, a book for a Leap Pad. Yet something as basic as fruit or clothing is often taken for granted today.

Why not try searching yourself? Perhaps you’ll find your own grandparent’s “Dear Santa” letter. Simply type in a name, date and “Dear Santa” in the keywords section. Click and see what you discover.

To view these records a Data subscription is required. If you don’t have one, you can read more information about our annual subscription which includes unlimited access to all historical records on SuperSearch.

What did you ask Santa for growing up? Did you get your wish? Let us know in the comments below.


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  • Pamela Larkins

    December 9, 2013

    Oh how I remember Christmases past, Once I got a little black doll and the boy next door broke it

  • Audrey

    December 10, 2013

    Dear santa

    Please will you get my two wonderful daughters and my young family members these
    Furby Boom
    Teksta Robotic Puppy
    LeapPad Ultra
    Flying Fairy
    Big Hugs Elmo
    Barbie Dream House
    Giggly Monkey
    Nerf Gun
    Ninja Turtles

  • Debbie

    December 10, 2013

    why don’t newspapers still do this I use to read everyone of the letters

  • Carl H. Bloss

    December 11, 2013

    You forgot the lump of “coal” which I mother got at Christmas and that was her birthday gift also on the 23rd. She pass that lump of coal off to me once also. Carl

  • Camilla

    December 11, 2013

    I live in a small town in Beaver Dam, KY. Our newspaper for the County, Ohio County Times News, still prints the Santa letters -thankfully.

  • Scott Elliott

    December 11, 2013

    I notice that the requests of a century ago, in addition to being generally quite modest, were for generic items (nuts, skates), whereas those of the present are for specific products (thisbrand thatthing).

  • cyrus arnaiz

    December 21, 2013

    Dear santa
    pls give me a touch screen cellphone…. & $500 dollars


  • lee h

    December 23, 2013

    i remember staying up all night waiting for him to come i was too
    excited to go to sleep ,,

  • sandra

    December 23, 2014

    plz give my hubby the best gift he could receive that he is still cancer free he had his op this year to remove it we wait and hope there is no more that`s all I would like thank you