From holograms to Plexiglas walls: How Santa comes to the mall during a pandemic

·3 min read

It was 26 days before Christmas, and all through the malls, not a Santa could be sighted, except through Plexiglas walls.

In the year of COVID-19, precautions were taken, to make sure young and old would not be forsaken. Malls great and small got creative, it's true, to make sure that Saint Nick could come to you.

Some malls are using high-tech holograms, while others are making Plexiglas shields to protect Santa Claus.

In Sydney, Mayflower Mall is using its social media accounts to connect kids with Santa.

In a normal year, Mayflower Mall has up to 3,000 kids flock to Santa for a picture, said Greg Morrison, the mall's general manager.

"It is such a great … boost in morale for a lot of people," said Morrison, "Maybe it might have even been taken for granted over the years, but I'll tell you [Santa] will be missed and we hope to have him back up and running again for 2021."

It's the first time since the mall was founded 40 years ago that Santa hasn't made an appearance.

Submitted by Greg Morrison
Submitted by Greg Morrison

However, with the possibility of COVID-19 spreading among those waiting to see Santa, the jolly old elf decided to stay away. But the Mayflower Mall has sent out a special video message from Santa through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The mall has also posted a giant-sized letter in the area Santa usually occupies in the mall. In the letter, Santa explains he won't be able to stop by the mall this year but will still be making all his Christmas deliveries.

At Sunnyside Mall in Bedford, planning combined with technological magic is allowing Santa to come to the mall — as a hologram.

"It'll be 3D," said Jillian Mason, the mall's marketing manager. "It will look like Santa is floating in thin air because he is, because Santa is magic. He will be in his office in the North Pole writing letters, eating cookies and drinking milk. When he sees a child pass by he'll wave to them."

David Burke/CBC
David Burke/CBC

Another hologram of reindeer racing through the sky has also been set up. People can get pictures taken there.

"It is pretty spectacular and magical," said Mason. "We started back in June. "You know, we realized that COVID wasn't necessarily going anywhere so we'd have to get creative."

So Mason and the mall reached out to a local advertising company that uses holograms to set up the technology. She wouldn't say how much it cost, but that it was within the mall's budget.

The holograms are expected to be up and running by Dec. 4 and will continue until Christmas Eve.

David Burke/CBC
David Burke/CBC

The mall also has a mailbox so children can send letters to Santa and receive a personalized response. A few dozen letters a day are coming into the mailbox, said Mason.

For an in-person Santa experience, the Highland Square Mall in New Glasgow is the place to go. Guests have to stand two metres apart in a Christmas-themed waiting area and are eventually led to meet Santa, who is seated behind Plexiglas.

The Halifax Shopping Centre has done the opposite. It has gone virtual with its visits, offering in-mall and at-home online visits with Santa.

Children also have the option of getting a pre-recorded message from Santa, according to the mall's website.

"Even though we're not able to sit on Santa's knee this year and talk to him in person, Santa himself is very magical," said Mason. "So whether it is appearing out of thin air or being able to respond to letters all over the world, we will have some sort of interaction with him. I think magic is what makes the holiday season so special."