Santa Claus Is Staying Safe By Video Chatting Nice Boys And Girls For Christmas This Year

Professional Santa’s across the United States are joining the rest of the world in adjusting how they run their business in a Covid-19 world. 

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Some of the nation’s thousands of Santas have been able to greet children in stores through plexiglass windows, or more creatively encased in a life size snow globe display for the big man. Others are opting for a more “work from home” approach and taking advantage of Zoom and other video chatting platforms to speak to all the boys and girls who made it to the nice list this year. 

Stephen Arnold is the president of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, a non-profit group of St. Nicks. Arnold himself has been dressing as Santa for decades, taking over department stores, malls, and small businesses while kids waited in line for hours to sit on their favorite jolly man’s lap and tell them what they want for Christmas. This year he found himself getting suited up behind a computer screen, and while his line of work has definitely been tougher with the pandemic, he’s still been able to deliver some Christmas joy to children all over the nation. 

“This has been a tough year, I find myself having to tell children, ‘I know Covid has not been fun to deal with, but Santa is staying safe, and even though we have to talk over video, I will still be coming down the chimney in person this year.’” Arnold went on to explain that at least 25% of International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santa members sat this season out due to Covid fears, or due to a lack of access to the technology needed to chat with the children. However, the Santas that are able to utilize all this pandemic technology have been bringing smiles to kids faces all season. 

“People have asked whether digital visits from Santa will disappear, but I don’t think so. It might be different than it used to be but you always remember your visits with Santa.”

WelcomeSanta is a company that’s been doing digital Santa calls since 2018, and as you can imagine the service has been booming this year. The company employs highly reputable Santa Claus’ and for $25 up to three children can talk to Santa during a five-to-eight-minute time slot. According to “Santa Chuck,” a professional Santa working for WelcomeSanta, calls have gone up by 75% this year due to the pandemic. 

Chuck claims that what video visits lack in physical intimacy, they make up for in length and details provided by the parents beforehand. For example, Chuck recalls speaking with an eight-year-old girl named Hannah this month who didn’t even have to tell him what she wanted for Christmas. Santa Chuck already knew what was on her list, the name of her dogs, that she was learning French in school, and what her favorite toy was, all thanks to preliminary information the parents provided. 

This attention to detail is what makes these calls so special for the children, and helps them forget that they’re video chatting with the big man instead of sitting on his lap. “Our goal is to leverage technology to awaken the magic of Christmas,” Chuck explained. Several new companies have taken inspiration from WelcomeSanta, and some old ones. For example, the iconic Macy’s department store in New York City’s Herald Square is now providing virtual visits with Santa on their website. 

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“Digital Santa visits allow us to meet children in spaces that would have been previously difficult to access, including hospitals with immunocompromised kids or remote locations abroad.”

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ImagineAR is another new app that uses augmented reality to put Santa directly in your home. The App uses 3D technology to allow a parent to virtually pose as Santa in a video chat with kids. SaveChristmas is a website that will send parents a downloadable image of your family photoshopped into a scene with Santa for $175, or a set of 100 Christmas cards with the picture for $285. 

Digital visits with Santa also create a much more accessible space for kids all over the country. For example, WelcomeSanta offers a Spanish language option which will let kids talk to Papa Noel in their native language. Macy’s is also allowing users to choose a “specific version of what Santa looks like” based on specific cultural background. 

“Some hospitals are now passing out iPads to children to allow them to see Santa safely. This is a huge opportunity to bring Christmas to more people,” Arnold explained. Ric Erwin is a professional Santa and the chairman of the board for the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, another non-profit group, who recently spoke with the media regarding this influx in digital Santa services. 

“My organization had begun to advise members in March to cancel in-person visits and to follow guidelines set up during the H1N1 outbreak of 2009. This isn’t our first time in the game,” Erwin said. Erwin and other Santa non-profit groups have also lobbied with  the government to reclassify Santa’s as essential holiday workers to receive the vaccine, however, the timeline of the vaccine release didn’t go as expected. For now, Santas everywhere will continue to spread Christmas cheer in a digital setting, and will be gearing up to meet everyone in person next year.