Thanks to vaccination against COVID-19 and the easing of some public health restrictions, Canadians are going to see a lot more Santa in 2021 than last year.
But there’s a catch.
Your chances of landing Santa on a pre-Christmas trip to the mall or attending a work party or event may depend on where you live.
In some parts of the country, there aren’t enough saints to hang around for live visits, in part because some cheerful old elves don’t yet feel personally safe. In other regions, Santa is sitting idle with few jobs due to the high number of COVID-19 cases
Last year, Santa gets national approval as an essential worker to fly on December 24, but the pandemic on the ground is still a problem for their working representatives and the companies that keep them.
,It’s going crazy,” said Jeff Gilroy, manager of Just Be Claus, a talent agency for Christmas characters based in Orilea, Ont.. “I’ve pulled off about 200 events.”
Santa back in business at the big mall
Mall Tours with Santa is back in Ontario, BC and other provinces after widespread cancellations last year.
Cadillac Fairview and Oxford Properties have both brought Santa back to shopping centers, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place and pre-booked appointments instead of lineups.
Clients started asking about Santa’s return in October, says Mina Caringi, property manager at Oxford’s Scarborough Town Center in Toronto’s east end.
“They haven’t had their Santa photos for quite some time, so they’re really looking forward to welcoming them back.”
With pre-booked slots, there’s a limited supply of visits, so unless parents plan ahead, there will be kids who only see Santa from afar.
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COVID fears and paperwork problems exacerbate shortages
Gilroy’s company is supplying Santas to three Oxford malls, and has about 25 Santas in its roster.
His St. Nicks is fully booked but he’s getting up to 30 calls a day for them, so he’s pitching customers on other Christmas characters, including the Grinch.
“Maybe you do the Grinch and have a little naughty Christmas,” said Gilroy, who claims that her expensive Grinch costume competes with the best of the Saints for attention.
In Vancouver, Rosmine Watson of Hire a Santa says she “never had as many bookings in a period of 10 or 12 days” as she did earlier this month.
Even though she has 120 saints on her roster on a yearly basis across Canada, she is struggling to manage the surge of requests from Ontario and B.C. as restrictions on social gatherings were eased.
Watson says that while many of her saints are sitting outside because of their age and fears about contracting COVID-19, others don’t have up-to-date criminal records checks.
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Virtual meetups still favor some saints
Some saints who are limiting or avoiding live visits altogether are still seeing children as they learned how to make virtual visits in the past year.
One such tech-savvy is Kris Kringle Santa Paul From Janetville, Ont.
Santa, popular in his 70s, usually has a slate full of special events and home visits, but for 2021 he’s still only doing virtual tours.
“I’ve been double vaccinated, and I’m about to get my booster shot, too. But the important link for us is getting the kids vaccinated.”
The virtual model allows working saints to travel internationally with children around the world.
santa gi Sessions have been booked with children from Sarnia, Ontario, Ireland, Russia and Japan.
“I’m playing with time zones around the world,” said Santa G, who charges US$45 for eight- to 10-minute virtual sessions.
He rented a small studio space for his video shoots, and is also performing live to help pay for it.
look | This Calgary Santa’s Bookings Are So Low He Went South:
sad saint looking for work in alberta
In Alberta, there is a lack of work rather than a lack of Santa—to the extent that a Calgary Santa went south for some sun.
santa jeff In his vacation workshop in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
At this time of year they would normally have 30 bookings, about six weeks of work.
This year they have added a total of 10 appearances to their calendar, which is no more than last year.
He says other Alberta Saints know they are facing similar troubles because of the province’s COVID-19 case count.
“Everyone’s still worried about it,” Santa said. “Malls have cut big time, corporate functions don’t exist very well.”
Although he is on his way back to Calgary for his appearance, Santa Jeffs feels a little lost in the desert without the joy he gets from watching the excited kids.
“Something’s missing, it’s like, what’s up? What am I sitting here, it’s time for Santa,” said the retired oil worker, who will soon be turning 70.
“It’s really a tear in the heart. I miss it so much.”
Will the Kris Kringle Crisis Continue?
In Nova Scotia, COVID-19 continues to mess with the market, even for Santa.
Eighty percent of Nova Scotians are complete vaccination, and social gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted without masks or social distancing, indoors and outdoors of up to 25 people.
Still, “at the start of the season, bookings were slow,” says one of the province’s most famous St. Santa Floyd,
While Santa Floyd is back in his regular chair for trips to a Halifax sporting goods store, his corporate party bookings declined 90 percent for the second year in a row.
Once again, he is filling the gap with bookings for small family gatherings and trips.
Over the past 10 days, he’s booked visits for every day he’s not at his store gig, and says he wishes there were more Kris Kringles to help out.
“I know people are struggling. They call me up. They say, ‘Can you do this show or come to my house?’ And I have to tell them, ‘No, I’m already booked.'”
Santa Floyd, 65, a 40-year veteran of the red suit, worries about the long Santa’s supplies in his province.
“I believe there’s going to be a Santa shortage,” he said, “I haven’t seen any new recruits yet.”
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