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Santa Is Trading In A Sleigh And Reindeer For Pandemic-Safe Ways To Visit Children

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Kids, you might as well go ahead and shout.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA'S "BEHIND THE MASK")

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You might as well pout, too.

SHAPIRO: Because Santa Claus ain't coming to town like he usually does.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA'S "BEHIND THE MASK")

RIC ERWIN: (Laughter). This year, it's just an amazingly incredible and depressing sight.

SHAPIRO: Look - we don't have to tell you that it is a year like no other. Children will not be sitting in Santa's lap at shopping malls. But never fear.

ERWIN: There will be a Christmas this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA'S "BEHIND THE MASK")

CORNISH: We reached out to Santa with the help of Ric Erwin of Hemet, Calif. He's chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas. In other years, Santa would make loads of in-person appearances before the big day.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA'S "BEHIND THE MASK")

SHAPIRO: Now Santa says he is trading in his sleigh and reindeer for some pandemic-safe ways to visit with children.

ERWIN: The easiest way to do that, of course, is just with a Plexiglas shield.

SHAPIRO: Some public places where kids can visit Santa will have a green screen, so you can appear to be together in a video or photo.

CORNISH: But Santa says he likes one idea best - a snow globe retailer had the idea to enclose St. Nick in a giant snow globe and pretend that a magical elf put him in there, and now the jolly old man can't get out.

SHAPIRO: He hopes these virtual appearances will make the holiday safe and satisfying. He did have to wiggle out of a written commitment that required him to perform in person before Christmas, but there was a loophole.

ERWIN: I did have a clause in my contract. There was an escape clause (laughter).

CORNISH: So, boys and girls, don't worry - Santa and Mrs. Claus are safe. The reindeer are in good shape, too. And as for those making your toys...

ERWIN: Viruses don't affect elves (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Santa the epidemiologist there. We reminded him that a lot of men have grown beards for the first time during this pandemic, and he offered advice.

ERWIN: Lean in to the beard. Facial fur is awesome (laughter).

CORNISH: Thanks, Santa. Now we wait as sugarplums dance in our heads.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA'S "BEHIND THE MASK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.