Over the years, people have come up with some odd Christmas traditions, but few will go down in history the way this one is.
Alfred and Mary McGann wrote two letters to Santa and tucked them away in a chimney, probably anticipating that Santa would find them as he descended into their home.
Over 100 years later, their childhood letters were discovered, not by Santa, but by a man they would never meet or know existed.
The man’s name is Peter Mattaliano, and his discovery of their hidden letters has touched him deeply. It all started with a home improvement project to renovate the fireplace in his New York City home. Mattaliano, a screenwriter and acting coach, recruited his brother to assist him with the project. The brothers plucked the letters from the rubble and realized they’d found something special.
Amazingly, the letters remained in relatively good condition, despite being written in 1905 and 1907. Alfred’s letter contains a request for two toys: a drum and hook-and-ladder wagon.
The words on his sister’s letter are faint but still legible…
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Mary’s letter to Santa provides a deeper glimpse into the children’s lives. Her letter is a little more elaborate and includes a small envelope addressed to Santa in Reindeerland. Mary also used her imagination to hand draw a reindeer postage stamp.
Mary’s letter reveals that she thinks about the welfare of others, and not just her own desires. She humbly asked Santa to bring her and her brother whatever gift he thinks is best for them. In her letter, Mary fully understands that Santa can’t afford to bring a wagon for her brother, but hopes they receive something for the holidays. What makes Mary’s letter particularly special is that she also puts in a request for Santa to remember the poor.
Peter Mattaliano was so moved by Mary and Alfred’s letters that he displays them on the fireplace mantle. Beneath the letters sit a rag doll and miniature wagon, which is his way of honoring their childhood wishes.Thanks to Alfred McGann signing his letter, Mattaliano was able to trace the family’s history. Unfortunately Alfred and Mary had already passed away. Still, their memory lives on through their childhood belief in Santa Claus.