Free Santa letters, personalised videos and more for 2019
The magic season is almost upon us, and we've plenty of ways you can up the fun factor in the run-up to Christmas with these Santa-centric freebies, perfect for the young and the young-at-heart.
Kids can write to Santa's Grotto and, if they’re lucky, they may get a reply from the man himself. Plus, nearer Christmas, you can request a free personalised video message from Santa - for recipients of any age - or track his progress as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve.
Free letter from Santa
Each year, Santa's elves at the Royal Mail can help you get a free letter from Santa, if kids write to him by early December.
This year's deadline for Royal Mail letters is Fri 6 Dec, so don't leave it too late and make sure you post your letters before then.
Technically, it isn't 100% free as you'll need to post your letter to Santa with a stamp (70p first class, 61p second). Just remember to include kids' full name and address, so Santa knows where to send his reply.
It's also worth remembering things can go wrong, as we reported a few years ago in our Royal Mail fails to deliver news story. Royal Mail says it can't guarantee a reply, even if you've sent your letter nice and early.
So while a nice festive freebie, it's a good idea to prep kids for disappointment (just in case) by reminding them Santa's very busy - so may not write back to everyone.
Where to send kids' letters
Pop it in the post with a stamp (remember the deadline is Fri 6 Dec), and address it to: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa's Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ.
Free Braille letter from Santa
Santa has some elves at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) - find their address below - who help him respond to children who are blind or partially-sighted.
What to do
Along with their letter, you need to include the child's name, age and home address, a telephone number (in case there's a query), as well as what format you require - either uncontracted or contracted Braille, a specific large font size, or audio CD.
This year's deadline for RNIB letters is Mon 2 Dec, so be sure to get it posted by then.
Where to send kids' letters
You need to post your letter to the RNIB's elves at the following address: Santa Claus, RNIB, Midgate House, Peterborough, PE1 1TN.
Alternatively, if you miss the postal deadline, you've an extra couple of weeks to send your letter by email and receive an email reply. Santa's RNIB email address is email@example.com.
The closing date for emails is Fri 20 Dec.
NSPCC letter (£5 donation)
You can apply to receive a personalised reply from Santa's elves at the NSPCC in exchange for a donation to the charity (suggested minimum £5). Choose from a whole range of illustrations such as ‘Reindeer Flying Practice’, ‘Christmas Disco’ and ‘Elves are Ready to Go!’. Your donation will be used to support children who need it, from buying paints to covering the cost of volunteer counsellors' calls. See the charity's website for full NSPCC Santa Letter info.
Personalised Santa videos
Each year, a website called Portable North Pole lets you send friends or family a free personalised video message from Santa - incredibly cute for kids to receive and potentially hilarious for grown-ups to exchange. It'll ask you to upload photos of yourself and the recipient, plus a picture of the gift they'd most like to receive for Christmas.
This year the free videos will be available from Sun 24 Nov, so check back then to tailor yours.
It only takes a few minutes to set up. Here's a still from one we made for Martin last year:
IMPORTANT: There's also a range of 'premium' videos that cost money to send. Make sure you're looking at the free options if you don't want to pay - you won't be asked to enter payment details for the free videos, so if this happens go back and try again.
Track Santa on Christmas Eve
Each year, free website Norad Santa opens its doors in early December (this year it'll be live on Sun 1 Dec) to let families track Santa's progress as he visits the homes of good boys and girls on Christmas Eve.
While the location tracking element is only on Christmas Eve itself (Santa's exact location is top secret until then), there's a virtual Santa's Village for kids to explore from 1 Dec - full of games, videos and music to keep them entertained in the lead up the Christmas.