Free Santa videos and more for 2017
Ignore the companies advertising letters from Santa that cost money. You can get them for free (well, the cost of a stamp), including in Braille for children who are blind.
But why let the magic end there? In a matter of minutes, you can send a free personalised video message from Santa - whatever the recipent's age - or track his progress as he whizzes around the world delivering presents on Christmas Eve.
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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.
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.
It only takes a few minutes to set up. Here's a still from one we made for Martin:
It's worth noting Portable North Pole's terms state the following:
"We will usually inform you (before collecting your data) if we intend to use your data for marketing purposes. You can exercise your right to prevent such processing by checking certain boxes on the forms we use to collect your data."
To prevent your data from being used for marketing, in addition to clicking the tick boxes you can contact the company directly via this online form.
Track Santa as he delivers presents
Each year, free website Norad Santa throws open its doors during December to let families track Santa's progress as he visits the homes of good boys and girls delivering presents on Christmas Eve (Sunday).
While the location tracking element is only on Christmas Eve itself, there's a whole 'Santa's Village' open now, allowing kids to play festive games designed to keep 'em entertained in the run-up to Christmas.
Free email for blind children
Blind or partially-sighted children can write to Santa and get a free reply in Braille, audio or large print. Again, you'll need to post it with a stamp - but that's the only cost involved.
What to do
Father Christmas's chums at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) help him translate letters, so your little one can read his reply themselves and not rely other people to read them out.
Unfortunately, the 2017 deadline for Braille letters has now passed - we're leaving the info here for next year.
NSPCC letter (£5 donation)
You can also get a personalised letter from Santa's elves at the NSPCC in exchange for a £5 donation to the charity. Unfortuantely, the deadline for this year was Saturday 16 December, but we've left the info here for future reference.
Free letter from Santa
Many companies charge to reply to kids' letters. Yet if you apply to Royal Mail, you can get a response from Santa for the price of a stamp (65p first class, 56p second class). However, this year's deadline was Friday 8 December so you won't receive a reply if you send letters now - we're only leaving this info here so you have it for next year.
Warning. Royal Mail says it can't guarantee a reply, even if you sent your letter before the deadline. So while this is a nice festive freebie, it isn't a definite as things can go wrong (see this 2013 MSE news article).
While we hope you'll all get your reply, it's a good idea to prepare kids by reminding them Santa's a busy old chap so may not be able to write back to everyone - just in case.
Where to send kids' letters
Pop it in the post with a 1st or 2nd class stamp (remember the deadline was Fri 8 Dec), addressed to: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa's Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ
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