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No ordinary letter to Santa

The Story

A doll and some money. In 1947, these requests to Santa by an 11-year-old girl from a poor New Brunswick family were ordinary enough. But after she attached her letter to a Christmas tree, one of 1.5 million bound for export to the United States, Villa Matchett got an extraordinary response. Her letter wound up being read over the radio in Natchez, Miss., prompting an outpouring of generosity from across the United States. In this CBC Radio clip, the lucky girl says a reporter's visit alerted her to the letter's fate before gifts from across the United States started flowing in.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC News Roundup
Broadcast Date: Dec. 23, 1947
Guest: Villa Matchett
Reporter: Ian Sclanders
Duration: 3:08

Did You know?

• Villa Matchett's note to Santa read: "I am a little girl 11 years old. Would like a doll for Christmas and some money. Just a few cents. I'm very poor."

• The following year, in 1948, Matchett was invited to ride atop a float in the Mississippi city's annual Christmas parade. According to the Toronto Star, she wanted to carry a Canadian flag on the float and had to take a side trip to New Orleans to borrow one from the British consul-general there.

• As she predicted, Matchett went on to become a nurse. She also married and had four children. In 1992 she was reunited with Linwood Lawrence, a pilot who had flown her for part of the journey home from Mississippi in 1948.

• "[My story] is not just about a little girl with a wishful imagination who tied her note to Santa on a Christmas tree," Matchett wrote to CBC Digital Archives in 2008. "It is about the response by the people who found this note and set into motion a series of events that would impact this child's life. It is a story about human kindness, generosity, caring and goodwill."

• Sociologists who study letters to Santa have determined that girls and boys request equal numbers of gifts. However, girls' letters tend to be longer and more polite.



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