Santa Claus is coming to town in new and creative ways this year. Crowded parades have been canceled thanks to COVID-19. Sitting on Santa’s lap is a no-no. How can families continue the Santa tradition safely in the wake of a pandemic?
Local communities and businesses have come up with some solutions to keep the “Ho ho ho” in the holidays.
The Santa Parade
Colorful floats and marching bands. Dancers and dignitaries. Toys and treats. The anticipation of the yearly arrival of Santa is often celebrated in cities across the country with the Santa parade. This year, many small towns in the surrounding area were quick to cancel their yearly Santa parades when health mandates were put in place. Anything that is likely to attract a crowd is deemed as risky behavior.
If the families cannot gather on downtown sidewalks to visit Santa, then why not bring Santa to the streets of their neighborhood instead?
The city of Milan decided to offer a traveling Santa this year. Mr. Claus boarded the Boogie Woogie Choo Choo and traveled a twelve mile route, where children could wave safely from their front porches. Families could also catch a glimpse from their cars in several lots along the route.
Chelsea is offering “Santa’s Neighborhood Drive-Thru” every Thursday before Christmas from 6 to 7:30pm. Santa will be escorted by the Chelsea Fire Department throughout a different area each week, and residents can check the Chelsea Area Festivals and Events website to see which neighborhood will be visited. The city recommends that any families outside should wear a mask and keep a distance of six feet apart for safety.
The Photo Op
It is a holiday tradition that spans generations: the iconic photograph of a child sitting on Santa’s lap at Christmas. This year, social distancing poses a few challenges for the yearly photo op.
Cherry Hill Programs provides Santas to malls across the country, including Briarwood Mall. This year, they are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of the Santa visit experience.
Visitors are encouraged to make advanced reservations to schedule their spot. Face coverings are required of all guests, and physical distancing of six feet is regulated. Hand sanitizer stations are available, and extra cleaning procedures have been put in place.
In addition, Santa and his helpers are required to complete a temperature check and health screening prior to their scheduled shift. Santa’s red suit gets special sanitizing as well.
Children will not be able to sit on Santa’s lap this year, but they will still be able to interact with him at a safe distance, while also posing for that cherished family photograph.
Reservations can be made at the Briarwood Mall website.
The Santa Mail
It may not be safe to visit Santa up close and personal this year, but children can always write a letter to Santa to share their wish lists.
Ann Arbor’s Main Street Association sponsors the annual Santa Mailbox for letters heading to the North Pole. It is located at 318 S. Main Street in front of Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub. If letters are received before December 14, Santa will send a reply.
Chelsea has the red Santa mailbox stationed at Palmer Commons on Main Street, ready to receive those holiday wish lists. If families would like to receive mail from Santa, they can include a self-addressed stamped envelope as well. Deadline is December 17.
Saline Area Chamber of Commerce has a Santa mailbox posted at the historic four corners in downtown, where children can leave their letters to Santa. The red mailbox is located on Michigan Road in front of Mac’s Acadian Seafood.
Zoom With Santa
Want to talk to Santa from the comfort of your home? McPherson Local in Saline is hosting Santa Zoom sessions on December 13. Families can fill out a request form at the McPherson website.
Visit Santa’s Reindeer
Santa will be busy at his workshop this year, but he is sending his reindeer to visit families at KBK Garden Center in Saline on December 20 from noon to 3pm. This outdoor event is free, and no reservations are needed. To learn more, visit the KBK Garden Center website.