Seeing Father Christmas is going to be different this year… in a good way
For the past couple of years, visiting Father Christmas has been a little different.
Santa has often had to sit behind a desk instead of welcoming kids onto his lap – masking up to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But over in the US, things are starting to return to what they were like before the pandemic.
One website that allows retailers to book an appearance from Father Christmas says it has seen a 30% increase in demand compared with last year.
But this hasn’t been without challenges, as the company has lost about 15% of its performers to retirement or death since the pandemic began.
Santas across the country are being given the freedom to wear a mask if they wish – but in many places, it is now no longer a requirement.
There are exceptions to the rule, though. At Macy’s world-famous flagship store in New York, a table will continue to separate Father Christmas from awestruck visitors.
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According to Mitch Allen, the founder of HireSanta.com, his performers will earn up to $12,000 (£10,000) over the festive period.
His agency is also accommodating requests for more inclusive Santas – including performers who are women, black, deaf or Spanish speaking.
Melissa Rickard, 48, made her debut when she was in her early 20s, and said: “I haven’t been busted yet by the kids and, with one exception, by the parents, either.
“To have a child not be able to tell I’m a woman in one sense is the ultimate compliment because it means I’m doing Santa justice. It cracks my husband up.”
Ms Rickard charges $175 (£145) an hour – and once her fuel is paid for, she donates the rest of the money to charity.
This Christmas, millions of children around the world will be thrilled to see Santa – and the feeling will be mutual.
“I can’t even explain how excited we are to see everyone’s smiles at all locations this season without anything covering up those beautiful faces,” said Chris Landtroop, from the Santa agency Cherry Hill Programs.