Santa Claus isn’t canceling Christmas this year, but he definitely wants you to stay safe at ho-ho-home.
As 2020 comes to a close, holiday celebrations will undoubtedly look a little different than they have in years past. Coronavirus cases are still rising in the United States, which means it’s crucial to wear masks, wash your hands, and practice proper social distancing this holiday season.
These are relatively simple protocols to follow, and luckily they won’t prevent you from partaking in many beloved holiday activities, such as making hot chocolate and cuddling by the fire, watching bad Hallmark movies while decorating your tree, or taking a peaceful stroll in the snow. Unfortunately, the pandemic will make it harder for families to visit Santa Claus in person.
Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, many people are understandably nervous to embark on their traditional Santa outings this year. And though several Santas are still appearing in malls thanks to some serious coronavirus safety upgrades, a variety of IRL Santa stations and meet-and-greets across the country have been canceled.
While your kids aren’t able to sit on Santa’s lap in 2020, they can still interact with him through a screen. A bunch of helpful online services are offering virtual Santa visits in the form of pre-recorded video messages or live video calls. They vary in price depending on type and duration of experience, date booked, and personalization, so we thought it would be helpful to round up a few of the best options for you to browse.
Here are 11 ways you can safely connect with Santa this season. (We even included a few offline suggestions as well, just in case the video services book up or you want to maximize your festive fun.)
1. Book a Santa Cameo
Image: screenshot / cameo
‘Tis the season to book a Cameo. The video-sharing platform that allows people to pay for customized videos from celebrities has been having a real moment in 2020. Cameos make for exciting socially-distanced gifts, and they can help you deliver a perfect holiday message to your loved ones.
Sadly, the Christmas queen (Mariah Carey) isn’t on Cameo, but you can book the next best thing: Santa Claus.
The platform has a variety of Santas to book, ranging in price from $25.00 to $75.00. You can request a video from the slightly pricey yet extremely official-looking “Cameo Santa” or “Santa J Claus,” though if you’re tired of classic Santa you can switch things up and opt for Santa in puppet form, a singing Santa, or even an aquarium-diving Santa.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Cameo process, upon booking a video from Santa, you can request that he deliver a specific message or address the video to a certain recipient. The personalized video will be sent to the provided contact within a week of placing the order, and if for some reason Santa is unable to follow through with the video you’ll be notified and refunded.
If you’re not in the mood to spend a lot of money on a video, several Cameo Santas also have less expensive “chat” options that will still let you virtually connect with Santa.
2. Set up a JingleRing message or live video call
If you’re looking for a more interactive video experience with Santa, JingleRing is a service to consider.
Like Cameo, you can still book custom pre-recorded messages from Santa through JingleRing for $19.95, but you can also use the platform to video chat with Santa and Mrs. Claus in real time.
You can book a live call from Santa for $24.95, and the service lets you invite up to four other callers to remotely join in on the fun. Santa calls can be personalized by selecting ethnicity, language (including ASL,) and faith-based preferences, and specialty experiences (such as story time and gratitude visits) can be requested as well.
Each JingleRing call comes with photos and a video recording of your call at no extra cost, so you’ll be able to share and look back on the unique holiday experience long after it’s over.
Bookings have already opened up worldwide, so be sure to snag session before they’re sold out.
3. Check out Santa The Experience
If you’re looking to add a little more pizazz to your virtual Santa call, Santa The Experience has you covered.
In addition to a five-minute video chat with Santa, an elf named Pickles will take you on a virtual tour of the North Pole where you’ll see Santa’s home, reindeer, mail room, and toy factory. You’ll even get to say hi to Mrs. Claus.
The entire virtual event will last around 12 minutes, and it’s sure to be a stand-out experience. Live call booking ranges in price depending on time of call and day of the week booked, but you can browse and reserve time slots for December here.
4. Live Calls with Santa
Another solid video chat option is Live Calls with Santa, a Zoom initiative that was created by parents who are hoping to spread some serious Christmas cheer during this unconventional year.
Like the majority of Santa live chats, you can personalize your child’s experience by including specific details such as sibling names, potential gifts, and more when booking your call. But Live With Santa also lets people invite Santa to their virtual Zoom gatherings or holiday parties.
Image: Getty Images
Live Calls with Santa offers three pricing options to choose from. The base package ($19.95) includes a video chat up to five minutes long, the premium package ($29.95) adds on story time and sends you a video recording of your call, and the platinum package ($49.95) includes a fully edited highlight reel of your experience along with a $10.00 credit to the site that can be used in the future.
You can book a call here or buy a gift card to the site to treat a loved one to a visit with the big guy in red.
5. Hire Santa
Calling all Shark Tank fans: Hire Santa is your perfect Santa hook up.
Longtime viewers of the reality TV show may recognize Hire Santa from the show’s 2018 holiday episode. The Santa-staffing service made a deal with “Shark” investor Barbara Corcoran, and now it’s hoping to help save the 2020 holiday season.
Though Hire Santa usually specializes in staffing in-person holiday events, the service has flawlessly adapted to the social distancing requirements of 2020 and offers both live video calls ($49) and personalized pre-recorded video messages ($39).
Check out the video above to get a better feel for the service’s festive holiday spirit, reminisce on the days when dozens of mask-less Santas could safely gather in a room together, and to sneak a peek at the thorough Santa audition process.
6. Zoom with a Santa pro
There are regular Santa impersonators, and then there’s Santa Ed Taylor.
For those who don’t know, Mr. Taylor Claus is a big shot in the “North Pole” and has made quite the name for himself in Hollywood. Santa Ed Taylor does TV shows, commercials, movies, and more. (Check out his highlight reel if you need some more convincing.)
If a professional Santa actor is what you want this year, then Ed Taylor is your man. Just know that his calls will set you back a pretty penny, though. Taylor’s live video chats range in price from $100 to $750 depending on the length of the call, the time of day, and the day of the week that you book. If you’re looking for a way to secure Santa Ed Taylor without blowing all your Christmas gift money, you can also order a personalized video message for $75.00, which, TBH, is still a lot of money if you ask me. C’mon, Santa Ed Taylor. Where’s that generous holiday spirit?
7. Get a personalized letter or call from the North Pole
Since everyone has the same need for a virtual Santa session this year, video calls and recorded messages are going to be in high demand. Services may book up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with Santa the old-fashioned way…by letter!
The U.S. Postal Service is once again running “USPS Operation Santa,” an annual program that encourages people to adopt and reply to children’s letters to Santa. To receive a letter from Santa, simply write him at 123 ELF ROAD NORTH POLE 88888. Be sure to include your return address and a stamp, then wait by your mailbox to hear back. (This year an “Operation Santa” documentary called Dear Santa is even coming out to get you in the spirit.)
It’s been a very difficult year for so many. Are you worried about the holidays? Do you believe in the magic of Santa? Write him a letter! Be specific. Include a return address. Send it to 123 ELF ROAD NORTH POLE 88888 and put a stamp on it! #DoYouBelieveInMagic pic.twitter.com/OaAwyj9V8L
— USPS Operation Santa (@USPSOpSanta) November 10, 2020
Services such as Sealed By Santa, Chatbooks, and Santa Claus House also offer personalized letters, postcards, gift packages, and more fun surprises from Santa. Do some searching and see which one best fits your needs.
8. Log on to Macy’s “Santaland At Home”
Image: screenshot / macy’s
Back in October, Macy’s canceled its nearly 160 year long tradition of hosting in-person Santa visits in stores, but rest assured, the holiday tradition will live on virtually.
Though Macy’s Santa visits will look a lot different this year, there’s still fun to be had from the comfort and safety of your own homes. Macy’s is launching “Santaland At Home,” a unique (and free!) online experience for kids and families to explore.
Starting November 27, people will be able to log onto the website and embark on a personalized digital journey to the North Pole that includes a virtual tour of Macy’s Santaland at Herald Square in New York City, a meet-and-greet with Santa’s elves, and some festive games. You’ll also be able to see Santa in an interactive video, and will even have the chance to take a “selfie” with him that you can cherish all season.
The online fun will run until Christmas Eve, so you can experience the joy over and over again in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And if you’re in the mood for more digital fun, check out the activities Google’s Santa Tracker has to offer.
9. There’s an app for that
Of course there’s a Santa app. There are dozens of Santa calling and video-chatting apps on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Just make sure you read the reviews to see what you’re getting yourself into before purchasing anything or showing the kids.
10. Safely seek Santa out in person
If you can stay home and opt for a virtual Santa visit, that’s your safest bet, but if your local mall still has a Santa setup and you’d like to pay him a visit be sure to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety guidelines.
Towns across the country have also outlined specific local holiday events and safe Santa sightings that you can partake in, so be sure to research when Santa’s coming to (your) town.
11. Get creative
If you’re looking for other ways to celebrate the season, it’s time to get creative. Have a fun photoshoot in front of festive holiday Zoom backgrounds, rent or buy a Santa suit and organize a socially-distanced Santa visit for your kids, or plan a movie marathon. Bake and decorate some cookies, make a big to-do about decking your halls, and curate the perfect holiday playlist to get you in the spirit of the season. And don’t forget to monitor a Santa Tracker (like the one Google offers) to keep
It’s going to be a strange end to an extremely strange year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to safely celebrate.