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Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Despite omicron and reported shortages, Santas stay busy for Christmas

Despite the rise in the omicron variant of the coronavirus and a reported shortage among Santa Claus characters across the U.S., some Santas are remaining busy in the final stretch of the Christmas season.

At the Citadel Outlet mall in Commerce, California, this week, a steady stream of young holiday revelers stopped by the Santa display not for Jolly Old Nick but for his better half instead.

“This year there are some concerns about coronavirus as our numbers here in Los Angeles are skyrocketing, however, this venue has been very spectacular about making sure everybody is staying nice and safe indoors and outdoors. And I think that’s a pretty common phenomenon at most venues, everyone trying to stay as safe as we can while still getting to enjoy the Christmas spirit,” said Jessica Kersey, playing the role of Mrs. Claus.

Last year the pandemic forced some in-person Santas to go on hiatus for the season. Like the wider public, many of those Santas instead transitioned to online performances. According to a survey organized by National Santa Tim Connaghan, nearly 53% of the 376 survey participants had done video chats either on their own via Zoom, FaceTime or Skype or via a national video conferencing company.

The same survey found that 157, or 42%, of the participants planned to stay digital this year.

In conversations with fellow Santas, Connaghan said most had not mentioned omicron, the new, highly transmissible variant, which emerged after his survey was completed.

“Most of them have talked about getting their two shots and their boosters and even then, probably from the survey, about 18% said they were probably going to hold off this year,” Connaghan said.

Connaghan said retirements and the pandemic have led to a Santa shortage, citing the survey’s average age of Santas of 66.2 years.

Kersey said she had heard of the shortage but believes that more Santas are opting for more private visits rather than working in a mall area.

With the vaccine and booster rollout, some Santas have been able to return to in-person this season, bringing joy at malls and at homes for private family visits.

Additionally, Connaghan said some Santa groups have received donations of BinaxNow home testing kits that have allowed them to continue working.

“We can get out there and know that we’re safe and that the families we’re visting are safe also,” he said.

For Kersey, the opportunity to return to in-person after last year’s virtual visits was too good to pass up.

“I am having so much fun and having so much joy seeing all the beautiful faces and all the smiles. We get to come here and we’re singing and laughing and we’re riding in our sleigh. Everybody is having so much fun. The adults, the children. It’s wonderful to have found a way to try to be in person and still make the magic happen and the fun happen while remaining safe, as I mentioned,” she said.

(Production: Alan Devall, Nathan Frandino)

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