Surprised Santa wearing a mask

For Christmas, ditch the mall, not Santa

For many of us, the Christmas season is a time for being together with family and friends and participating in communal traditions like parades, doorbuster deals, and taking our children to visit Santa at the mall.

So, how do we celebrate safely during the height of a very contagious virus?

Is Santa’s lap safe?

“The biggest risk for kids visiting Santa this year is that we know that Santa falls into that high-risk category. We don’t know exactly how old Santa is, but he’s certainly over 65, so he’s a little high-risk there. And we know he eats lots of Christmas cookies at Christmas time so that potentially puts him in some other high-risk categories,” said Liz Levi, Northern Region director of quality and patient safety for OSF HealthCare.

Santa sitting in chair with mask on“We want Santa to be safe. We know that Santa does have some magical abilities, but we do need to keep our distance from Santa.”

“It’s probably not a good idea to sit on Santa’s lap,” Liz added. “You may find Santa behind some Plexiglas. Hopefully, he’s wearing a mask. Certainly, all of the kids, if they’re over 2, should be wearing a mask. Just be very careful about that physical distancing, doing the hand hygiene, and really see if it’s what you need for your kid. Do they need to see Santa in person? There are a lot of ways to engage Santa besides seeing Santa at the mall.”

If you have faith in your own acting abilities, you could always don the beard and red hat at home, so Santa can make a house call to hear what your children want for Christmas this year. It’s all about re-creating safe versions of holiday traditions that may be too risky this year.

Alternatives to Santa’s lap

There are several ways to engage with Santa or Santa’s helpers this year if you don’t go to the mall.

If you send a letter to Santa at the North Pole, the United States Postal Service will actually get the letter up there and get it postmarked, returning it to you with the North Pole postmark.

You can also send a letter to Santa Claus, Indiana, where a whole volunteer team helps Santa answer all those letters and send back responses.

In addition to letter writing, there are many websites where you can send an email to Santa. Some allow you to do a phone call or a virtual chat with Santa.

You can also use artwork. Draw Santa with a mask, put a mask on a snowman and talk with your children about how they think Santa and the elves handle quarantine.

Keep the holidays joyful

Keeping yourself, your family and loved ones safe does not have to require scrapping all your holiday traditions. Liz believes it’s important to keep as much of our lives and holidays as normal as we safely can, especially for our children.

Senior couple waving at iPad during Christmas“Anytime that you can continue a tradition that you’ve done in the past while doing it safely, I think that’s worth investing in,” Liz said. “Whatever it is that you find joy in that’s a tradition for you around Christmas, it does provide that comfort and that stability to these kids that have had a really tough year this year.”

The key is to do the holidays safely. So, your traditions may not involve as many family members together under the same roof. Instead, you may be engaging family members virtually. Whether your crew opens presents the morning of Christmas or the night before, or you always wear matching pajamas, you should find a way to do what you’ve always done to make the season light.

Make sure to include your traditions of faith in your home. And if you have friends and family who are physically isolated – especially if they’re elderly or home alone – reach out more often.

“The hardest thing about celebrating Christmas this year will be the fact that we can’t be with all of our friends and family members,” Liz said. “I think it’s important to look at it as a sacrifice this year for the ability to all be together in the future.

“We know if we can get through this tough winter, then we have the vaccine coming out in the spring and hopefully next year, we’ll all be able to be together again.”

No matter what you do this Christmas season, whenever you’re in public, please remember to follow the Three Ws: Wear a mask, watch your distance from others and wash your hands often.

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: COVID-19, Kids & Family