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Stores try to keep Christmas magic alive, introduce 'contactless Claus' experience

Meeting Santa will look a little different this year.
Stores are creating new Santa Claus experiences for visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Stores are creating new Santa Claus experiences for visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.Bass Pro Shops
/ Source: TODAY

There may be no sitting on Santa’s lap this year thanks to social distancing, but some businesses are finding creative ways to allow kids to still meet Santa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bass Pro Shops and its sister store, Cabela’s, announced a "contactless Claus" program for Christmas this year. In a video posted to Instagram that shows a preview of their “re-imagined Santa’s Wonderland,” Santa sits behind a clear shield and also wears a protective visor.

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“Enjoy a contactless visit thanks to our magic Santa shield, along with extra enhancements to keep everyone safe this holiday season,” says a voice-over in the video. “Our elves will be wearing face coverings and cleaning all surfaces between each visit, with physical distancing that provides plenty of room.”

Visits with Santa will be socially distanced this year.
Visits with Santa will be socially distanced this year.Bass Pro Shops

As part of the increased safety measures, visitors will also undergo temperature screenings. All employees will wear face coverings, and visitors may be required to wear masks depending on local guidelines.

Businesses around the country have announced changes to their holiday programming, either saying goodbye to Santa visits or introducing similar contactless Santa visits this year due to the pandemic.

Last month, Macy's said Santa Claus would be skipping his annual visits to their flagship store in New York and in other major stores in Chicago and San Francisco, that normally would have Santaland experiences for visitors.

But Brookfield Properties, one of the largest shopping mall operators in the U.S., unveiled their plan for socially distanced photo ops with Santa.

“We felt visiting Santa was an important family tradition to uphold, so we found a creative solution to keep everyone safe and drive holiday shopping traffic,” the company wrote on Instagram. “This year we will be hosting a contactless Santa experience at 134 of our shopping centers. He will be nestled at a safe distance away while kids can sit on presents for photo ops or across from him to chat.”

PREIT, another large mall operator with locations in five states, also announced that mall Santas will be protected by a plexiglass divider this year, with visitors sitting on a bench in front.

They are also offering five-minute, one-on-one Zoom calls with Santa, which can be recorded as a keepsake.