In his 21 years as a professional Santa, Mr. Kringle of Mr. Kringle & Company has dealt with every type of temperament and gift request from his young clientele. But 2020 presented him with a new challenge: How was he supposed to connect with kids when he couldn’t be near them? As was the case with so many issues this year, the internet was the answer.
“It’s not the real in-person visit, but it’s still a personal visit,” Mr. Kringle told Mental Floss. “And kids already understand what’s happening on Zoom. They’re already Zooming their classrooms to some degree and have been doing it for a few months now, so they understand it, and they understand the dynamic.”
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Kringle is one of many Santas offering virtual meet-and-greets this holiday season. For $48 to $58, families can sign up to have a personal streaming session with Santa Claus from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Prerecorded messages from Father Christmas himself are also available for $28.
Meetings kicked off on November 21, and Mr. Kringle has already seen an incredible response. “We’re having an international reach," he says. "A lot of people are reaching out to us from Canada. We heard of an inquiry from India today. People are looking to engage with Mr. Kringle, and given this technology, it can happen any time and any place.”
Even Santas who have experience connecting with kids virtually anticipate a very different holiday season in 2020. The Cameo Santa has been a professional Santa for decades and on Cameo for the last three years. He tells Mental Floss that this season he’s expecting to get five times the amount of requests he got this same time last year.
“In my 26 years of being a professional Santa, probably the most parties I have had in one day was five,” the Cameo Santa says. “Being the Cameo Santa has given me the opportunity to touch many more lives and spread way more Christmas spirit than I ever could’ve dreamed was possible.” In addition to recording personalized Cameos for $65, he’s also available for Zoom meetings.
Mall Santas are employing some creative strategies this year in an effort to keep everyone healthy. At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, kids are forbidden from sitting on Santa’s lap, and they can only interact with him from a distance. At Aalborg Zoo in Denmark, Santa is ensconced in a snow globe.
Still, a virtual meeting is the safest option for families hoping to see Santa this year, and beyond the health aspect, it comes with some surprising benefits.
The Cameo Santa recalls a review he received from one mother describing the immediate impact of his video message. “I started mentioning the things the children needed to work on to stay on the nice list, and that was to start keeping their room clean," he says. "So that was the first thing I mentioned in my mild but firm suggestions [of] what to do. She said she could not stop laughing, because right there in the middle of the Cameo, both boys jumped up and ran to their rooms and started cleaning the room up! Talk about impact. Ho ho ho!”
For Mr. Kringle of Mr. Kringle & Company, the biggest upside to meeting children through Zoom is the opportunity to continue a tradition in a year when so much has been put on hold. He says, “I would hate to think you’ve got a 7-, 8-, 9-year-old who's on the brink—you know what I mean?—and the year goes by with no visit from Santa. That they can still have this will maybe keep them believing one more year.”