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Santa Claus lives in Canada, zip code H0H 0H0. And...

By BRIGID PHILLIPS

MONTREAL -- Santa Claus lives in Canada, zip code H0H 0H0.

And Post Office House in downtown Montreal can prove it with the tens of thousands of letters it has received from youngsters worldwide.

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The scrawled notes are taken seriously by Santa and nine helpers at Post Office House and they have already answered 40,000. They expect to send out 60,000 before Jan. 15.

'Your letter was like a ray of sunshine; it made me feel warm all over,' Santa writes back to most of his friends. The responsecan be sent in almost any language -- English, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish -- or even braille.

'Letters from all over the world that are addressed to the north pole seem to get directed to Canada. In 1978 we decided to start answering them,' said Canada Post official Johanne Halle.

Letters need only be addressed North Pole, or even Snowland, Snow Street or Icicle Lane to reach Santa. They arrive in all shapes and sizes, some in homemade envelopes and even handcrafted stamps.

A 30-foot long scroll offered greetings, messages and crayon drawings for Santa from a schoolroom of young admirers. Others contain candy, gum, pennies, and 'cookie crumbs,' said Miss Halle. Some have self-portraits and one even included a complete photo album of all kids who have been good all year.

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One little girl switched allegiance from the tooth fairy in honor of the festive season and sent Santa her personal enclosure: 'Here is my tooth which I attached.'

Some ask pleadingly for a small gift, others list out the full Christmas order, and yet other consumption-minded youngsters paste catalogue pictures of the requested items, just to make sure there are no mistakes.

Montreal gets most of Santa's Canadian mail and anything that filters in to Canada from international post offices destined for north pole.

Although there are probably a few other Santa's helpers writing, stamping and mailing elsewhere, Miss Halle said the Montreal division is 'the most organised operation we know of.'

A psychologist takes charge of replies to the 'very sad' letters, where a child begs Santa to please make me better, or please send me a new mother.

'Those letters take very special answers, and we are very grateful to have people available to help us,' Miss Halle said.

'To children Santa Claus is a dream, but we have even had some adults write. For them Santa is just someone to tell problems to. He represents hope.'

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