GTPulse: Santa’s Mailbox Is In Traverse City

What was meant to be a decoration has turned into a magical postal service after a little girl named Melah dropped a letter off in Santa's mailbox.

They’ve done it again. Two of the crew that put together the impressive Pirates of the Caribbean Halloween display on Parker Place in Traverse City have gone all out for Christmas. The ghostly ship was an interactive haunted house that Brittany Merenda and Ryan Donnell encouraged all to explore, and they’re hoping that folks will interact with their Christmas display too, by dropping off their letters to Santa at the Northpole mailbox featured in their cheery and bright set up. And by bright, I mean, there is absolutely no way you will miss it.

“The final total of lights is 20,232,” Ryan said.

“Once we did the final count we were still like 400 shy of 20,000,” Brittany said. “We’re that close so we went out and wrapped another bush and another tree. We had to pass the 20,000 mark.”

As a theatre professional that works in projection design, Brittany is no stranger to fantastic displays. Though her house is the one to keep an eye out for on Halloween, this is the first time she’s had such a large outdoor setup for Christmas decor.

“I usually work so much, and this is always my busiest time of year,” she said. “I’m usually traveling and not home, obviously not this year, so we actually had time to go a little crazy.”

The illumination includes snowmen under archways, reindeer, Santa and his sleigh, a Christmas tree made of lights, and a row of candy canes that leads right up to a fire engine red mailbox that reads Letters To Santa in curly gold letters on the front. The mailbox was gifted to Brittany’s husband Tim Merenda.

“My mom and sister gave that to Tim two years ago as a Christmas gift. We put it up last year and it kept falling over and we had put it closer to the back of the house. So this year, we reinforced it with all of these zip ties so it was secure and we could ask people to put their letters in.”

Initially, the mailbox was just going to be a part of the decorations. But when a letter was found in the mailbox from a little girl named Melah, Brittany and Ryan were so touched that they wanted more kids to do the same.

“There was no return address, it was just a drawing and we thought, ‘Oh my gosh this is so cool we should tell people that if they put a letter in with a return address Santa will write back.’”

Brittany let her neighbors know in the Nextdoor app, and so far they’ve already received 21 letters. They’re encouraging not only the kids to submit their letters, but also the parents to submit one on behalf of their kid too, including special information that Santa can include in his response to them. Any letter with a return address will receive a personalized letter back, with a shimmery red wax seal and all. When I visited Ryan and Brittany, they were working on the perfect wax recipe to close the letters with.

Sneaking out to pull letters out of the mailbox has become more exciting than receiving a package in the mail, but they have to be careful. Little kids in the neighborhood have submitted letters of their own, so in daylight hours, Brittany and Ryan have to hold back so none of the little ones see them emptying the mailbox.

“We told one of our neighbor kids that an elf comes every night at midnight to collect the letters,” Brittany said.

A few kids who have submitted their letters are reaching the age where skepticism on Santa starts to creep in. 

“How old is the kid who came to put a letter in because he’s a little on the fence?” Brittany asked Ryan.

“He’s in first or second grade, so we’re going to put in some key phrases that the parents told us to say to make it really personal,” Ryan said.

“One of our friends has an 11-year old that is starting to not believe and they’re going to drop a letter off. That’s what I really want and am hoping for, that those kids who are almost to the age where they don’t believe, that we can get another year of believing out of them. Some of these lists are long, some are flamboyant, one of the things that I think is important is that Santa doesn’t pick one person to give expensive things to. We won’t promise specific gifts on their lists, but we are going to do our best to explain that Santa is not the outlandish gift giver. He’s a practical, equal gift giver.”

Bundle your kids up with their letters and take a drive around Parker Place in Traverse City. The whole Stoneridge neighborhood is festive and will give you a light show to enjoy driving around before and after you drop your letter off. Make sure to leave a return address, and make sure to follow Stoneridge_decorates on Instagram to keep up with all of the neighborhood’s holiday decorations.

“We have a Northpole post stamp, and we’ve picked out Santa’s signature,” Brittany said. “The idea is that it looks very authentic. If there’s any year to believe in something, this is the year.”


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Categories: GTPulse