Like many others in 2020, Santa's gonna be working a lot more from home.
In the midst of social distancing and other precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many Christmas festivities are being adjusted. Santa visits are no exception. But that doesn't mean Father Christmas is taking the year off.
While kids won't be able to sit on his knee, Saint Nick is still around to hear Christmas wishes and take pictures – or screenshots, in some cases. Here's how various companies are letting kids meet Santa during a pandemic, while keeping them (and Kriss Kringle) safe from COVID-19.
1. In-person, but not up-close
Despite the pandemic, many businesses are bringing Santa back into stores this year. But they are doing all they can to keep the jolly old man safe, including not allowing kids to sit on his knee, no matter whether they’ve been naughty or nice.
Kids will instead tell Santa what they want for Christmas from 6 feet away, and sometimes from behind a sheet of plexiglass. Santa and his visitors may need to wear a face mask, even while posing for photos. Some stores will put faux gift boxes and other decorations in front of Saint Nick to block kids from charging toward him.
Other safety measures include online reservations to cut down on lines, workers wiping down holiday-decorated sets, and hand sanitizer aplenty. Santa’s hours are also getting cut to give him a break from crowds.
Mall operator CBL, which filed for bankruptcy last month, is bringing Santa to nearly 60 malls this year. The company decided against a plexiglass barrier because it didn’t look right in photos. But Santa will be socially distanced and wear a face mask. He may also put on a plastic shield to protect his face.
Mall owner Brookfield started planning in April for in-person Santa visits at 130 of its shopping centers. It opted for sleighs and gift boxes where visitors can sit away from Santa. At one of its malls, The SoNo Collection in Norwalk, Connecticut, a round piece of plexiglass will be placed in front of Santa so it looks like he’s inside a snow globe.
Bass Pro Shops is also offering contactless visits with Santa, who sits behind a sheet of plexiglass and is accompanied by elves in face masks, who take kids' temperatures and wipe down the plexiglass after each visit. Additionally, children must book an appointment in advance to meet Santa.
Photos with Santa are offered at all of the above experiences.
2. Video chat with Santa
If you aren't keen on taking your kids to an in-person Santa experience, there are plenty of ways to virtually connect to the North Pole.
In addition to bringing Santa to more than 700 malls, Cherry Hill Programs will offer Zoom calls with him for the first time in its 60-year history. Brookfield teamed up with virtual Santa company JingleRing, giving people a way to chat with Santa from home. According to JingleRing's website, for $24.95, customers can meet Santa or Mrs. Claus live, in a virtual experience through "North Pole TV."
Through Santa – The Experience, customers who reserve a time slot will be taken through five scenes guided by an elf, before a live 5-minute video chat with Santa. The booking form includes the option to share information such as your child's name, age, Christmas wish list and a funny moment from this year, so that Santa can personalize the chat. Prices range from $34.95 to $79.95, depending on the slot booked.
Chit-Chat with Santa is also offering a 10-minute video call with Santa and a 15-minute story time with Mrs. Claus, costing $35 each. For every live call, the company will donate $1 to one of four pre-selected charities of the family’s choice. These are St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities, ASPCA and Shepherd’s Hope. USA TODAY readers can use the code SANTAUSA to receive 20% off their Chit-Chat with Spurchase. The code has no expiration date and can be used once per household.
Photos with Santa, in the form of screenshots or digital images, are offered at all of the above experiences.
Airbnb is offering a similar service this year. The rental company will offer meet-and-greets in sign language and story time. Details of each Santa experience on Airbnb are up to the host, including whether pictures are allowed.
3. A recorded message
If a live experience is too difficult to fit into your schedule, Santa is also making video messages. Kids won't get a picture with Santa this route, but they'll still get that magical feeling that comes with hearing his voice exists.
A personalized 60- to 90-second video greeting from either Mr. or Mrs. Claus costs $20 through Chit-Chat with Santa. JingleRing is also offering personal, pre-recorded Santa messages, for $19.95 each, as is It's the Real Santa, for $44.95.
Plus, there are plenty of Santa performers working freelance on the video-gram website Cameo.
Contributing: Joseph Pisani, Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Santa photo: From in-person to virtual visits, how kids can get one