A COVID-19 Christmas: Santas get creative as cases surge
KITCHENER -- Visiting Santa this year for a Christmas photo-op, like so many other things during the pandemic, will be different.
Following advice from public health, malls are changing the classic visit and photo with Santa
“It really is about maintaining physical distancing and about wearing a mask. I think we're all going to have to think creatively about how we honour traditions,” Dr. Julie Emili, associate medical officer of health in Waterloo Region.
Waterloo's Conestoga Mall originally planned to have in-person visits at the end of November, but on Wednesday said they had cancelled the Santa Program this year.
"The health and safety of our customers, tenants and employees continues to be our number one priority as we head into the holiday shopping season," a statement from mall officials said in part.
Reservations and face masks are required and instead of meeting inside at Santa’s big chair, Santa has a cabin this year and it's outside.
Saint Nick will not be visit Cambridge Centre mall, where there will instead be a themed photo backdrop for families and shoppers with no reservations required.
At Fairview Park mall in Kitchener, Santa will offer one-on-one virtual chats.
“Or you can join one of our 12 Facebook Live story time events where Santa will read a story and take your questions and ask you some as well,” said Craig Plannagan, vice-president marketing at Cadillac Fairview.
Cadillac Fairview says sensitive Santa for children on the autism spectrum will also be available virtually.
Beyond the busy malls, some local businesses are also offering COVID-19-corrected Christmas photos by reservation.
“They'll have ten minutes to take a photo with Santa and the setup we have is he's next to the fire place and children and families are on the other side so we still maintain a distance and Santa will be keeping his mask on,” said Ronak Patel of Play-a-Latte Cafe.
Play-a-Latte in Kitchener also has a drive-by visit with Santa, but spots are filling up fast.
If you're hoping to take the kids to your traditional spot for this year’s photo, it is recommended to call ahead.