The good news is that Santa Claus won't be trapped behind a plastic barrier this year.
But parents should expect visits with Kriss Kringle will still be limited, with kids placed on benches — rather than on Santa's lap — and reservations required.
The Macy's department store chain, for instance, only has Santa available at limited locations. Everyone must be masked and kids will sit across a desk as they tell him whether they've been good or bad.
Randyl Wagner, a professional Santa for three decades, told Bloomberg that after doing 600 virtual appearances in 2020, he is doing limited in-person visits in 2021, but with COVID precautions in place.
"I have not done any lap-sitting yet," Wagner said.
A few locations will allow kids to sit on Santa's lap (Santa will be vaccinated, a mall owner told Bloomberg), but others are remaining cautious. Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, a Frankenmuth, Mich., holiday store, said it is sticking with virtual visits only.
Beyond COVID concerns, the other issue forcing some reduced Santa appearances this year is common to all businesses: a labor shortage. Hiring agencies for Santas told Bloomberg they haven't been able to fill every opening, even with extra bonus offers.