Operation Santa Claus - the program that lets people respond to children's letters to Santa - has concluded in Philadelphia and was "hugely successful," a spokeswoman said yesterday.

The end of the program, which was scheduled to conclude Monday, had nothing to do with a "privacy breach" Thursday in New York that resulted in the program being shut down there and in other cities, said Carol Yarosky of the U.S. Postal Service. A man identified as a registered sex offender had "adopted" a letter in New York, which led the Postal Service to at least temporarily terminate the program.

Yarosky said the main branch in Philadelphia had received between 700 and 1,000 letters since Dec. 1, but had only between 10 to 15 left as of Wednesday. Those remaining letters were given to employees for a response. "Operation Santa has been in Philadelphia for about 25 years and it always has been a popular program," she said.

The program in Philadelphia has not experienced a problem since it started, she said. "Hopefully we're going to do this next year," she said.

- Robert Moran