DALLAS — As families set up decorations inviting the Christmas season, the coronavirus pandemic is changing traditions for many people.
That includes visits with Santa. Those special moments won’t be the experiences many children and families have grown up with.
Santa Larry (a.k.a. Larry Jefferson) is a familiar face around Dallas. He’s already been busy traveling from North Texas to his workshops in malls across the country. However, things are different now.
”Last year, we were having in-person contact. In-person visits. I was able to hold children, hug children, and parents alike,” Santa Larry explained.
Safety concerns due to COVID-19 have him, other Santa's helpers, and many malls switching up the way they work this holiday season.
“We’ve gone from doing in-person visits to virtual Santa visits,” Santa Larry explained.
That’s right. A growing number of places are setting up online visits for children and families.
Santa Larry is on assignment at his workshop in the Mall of America in Minnesota, right now.
“Up until Friday, we were doing in person Santa visits where people could come to my workshop. But then we had such a high spike in the COVID activities here in Minnesota, that the governor issued some mandates and orders,” Santa Larry explained.
The Mall of America officially launched The Virtual Santa Experience. People can schedule online visits with Santa by going to www.TheSantaExperienceMN.com.
While a virtual visit is not traditional, Santa Larry feels confident families can still experience the joy and magic of the holiday season with a special meeting online.
”It’s so relaxing. You’re in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to get out of your house and drive to the mall and things of that nature,” Santa Larry explained.
Many local malls are coordinating special visits with Santa through their websites. You should check soon, since virtual visit lists for the season are filling up fast.
NorthPark Center in Dallas is offering a Santa experience. You can learn more by visiting their website.
Galleria Dallas is advertising a special and safe visit with Santa through The North Pole Express experience. More details about that feature and other holiday events can be found at the mall's website.
Santa Larry is also scheduling virtual visits through his website.