Should you take your kids to see Santa this year?
Posted November 17, 2020 9:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2020 8:18 a.m. EST
We've seen a lot of creative updates to the usual Santa set this year, aimed at making it safe to see the big guy during the pandemic.
Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops have plastic barriers between kids and Santa. At Crabtree Valley Mall, face coverings are required for everybody, including Santa. At most places, sitting directly on Santa's lap isn't allowed, and social distancing will be strictly enforced. We cover lots of opportunities to see Santa in our earlier post about Santas across the Triangle.
But do all of these new safety measures make visiting Santa safe this year as COVID-19 cases only grow? I asked Emily Sickbert-Bennett, director of infection prevention at UNC Medical Center, how she would recommend parents assess their options.
She recommends starting from the very beginning. Do your kids really need to see Santa this year?
"Start off by really assessing whether or not that's a family tradition that is necessary for you this year," she said.
A mom herself, she has a few pictures of her kids when they were young, terrified and absolutely miserable as they sat on Santa's lap. "We have some pretty crazy pictures," she said.
While getting that picture perfect photo with Santa may be important to you, it might not be the best memory for your child. "Adding Plexiglass and a mask to the picture is probably unlikely to yield a perfect holiday card for you this year," she said.
If visiting Santa is a family tradition that's really important and your children are eager to personally deliver their Christmas wish lists to St. Nick himself, schedule your visit with the big guy, Sickbert-Bennett said. But when you see him, be sure you do it while wearing masks and avoiding crowds, so you can maintain a social distance from others.
If it's not critical to your family traditions and your child's happiness this year, Sickbert-Bennett recommends thinking outside the box.
"I would encourage people to think a little different about how they could do something creative that would still let their child feel some of the magic of Santa without necessarily having all that interaction in person," she said.
Need ideas? Local Santas are offering virtual visits and the city of Raleigh is offering phone calls with Santa. And, as always, you can follow Santa's journey via NORAD. You can even send him a letter and get one back through the U.S. Post Office.