Chicago, United States:
As the pandemic rages, children’s visits to Santa Claus become virtual – to protect both them and the men in high-risk groups who dress up as old St. Nick.
“I’m not kidding about the pandemic,” said Joe Harkins, an 87-year-old Santa Claus from Jersey City, New Jersey. “I’m not going to risk my life for family or public events. It’s just too risky.”
Harkins, like many of his brothers in red, as many Santa Clauses call each other, has put his winter appearance online and has decided to swap personal visits for virtual ones.
He’s even gone so far as to start a company called Santa Encounters, where potential Santas can sign up to create personalized videos for kids.
“By definition, most Santa Clauses are in the highest risk category by age or underlying disease,” said Ric Erwin, director of the California-based Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santa Clauses.
“This is further compounded by the fact that our target audience is young children, who are notorious carriers of all infectious things,” added Erwin.
John Sullivan, an 81-year-old Santa from Streamwood, Illinois, has moved on to all virtual visits. This is the first year in his 30-year career as Santa that he will not see any children in person.
However, this has the advantage that the parents will know in advance about the children he will be speaking to.
“I’m learning their names, the names of their siblings, whatever they want, the name of their pet, things like that. When I start talking to the kids they say, ‘Hey, that Santa knows everything about me!’ “said Sullivan.
“If you’re in a mall that has a large number of children, you don’t know about them.”
Contactless Santa Claus
The pandemic has not wiped out all of the Mall Santas, although it has changed the way many visits are made.
Cherry Hill Programs, which conducts Santa visits to more than 700 retail locations across the United States, made visiting Santa a contactless experience this year.
Guests are required to wear masks and make reservations to clear lines. Santa Claus and staff conduct daily health checks and temperature checks, and children are not allowed to sit on Santa’s lap.
Instead, Santa Claus sits in his high chair with a plastic sign over his face and plexiglass in front of him, while the guests sit on a bench six feet in front of him, facing a masked photographer who then takes a picture. In addition, the company also introduced a virtual option this year.
Many Santas’ decision to go virtual seems wise.
“I miss the hugs”
A recent appearance by a maskless Santa and Mrs. Claus in Georgia became a nightmare for every parent. On December 10th, about 50 children were exposed to Covid-19 after being photographed at a Christmas parade with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The individuals who served as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus were not symptomatic at the event but tested positive a few days later.
The tradition of seeing Santa Claus alive while protecting everyone at the same time motivated Kathryn Burgess, a photographer from Richmond, Virginia, when she created the Snow Globe Santa.
A children’s book explained why Santa Claus is in a snow globe this year, along with real snow globes that Santa Clauses can enter and children can see while they are safe.
Burgess, who has three children ages 2, 4, and 6, said she created the story and product to save the experience for families.
“I thought if we could get creative there was a chance we could save this tradition,” said Burgess.
Some believe the virtual visits will still appeal to families even after the pandemic.
“I think virtual visits are here to stay,” said Erwin.
“There will always be people who want to see Santa in the mall or invite them to their home, but the convenience of virtual visits and the fact that you can invite distant family members from around the world will remain an attraction. And be us honestly, even young children are used to interacting online now. “
Despite all of the things technology enables, there is something that cannot be made up for, at least until the pandemic is over.
“I miss the hugs and looks on their faces when they talk to me,” said Harkins. “I miss that very much. Nothing can replace that.”
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)