INDIANAPOLIS — The coronavirus pandemic is affecting so many holiday traditions, including kids' annual visit with Santa Claus.
Local businesses, museums and retailers are rethinking how children can still meet with Santa, safely.
Posing for pictures with Santa Claus is definitely changing this year.
No hugs. No sitting on the big guy's lap.
Christmas during COVID-19 has forced his helpers to get creative.
At "Santa Stop", on US Highway 36 in Avon, the jolly old elf is going high-tech.
Families can order a personalized video message, sent from the holiday-decorated stage of the Red Curb Comedy Club.
Profits will help the business, which has been shut down since March, weather the pandemic.
"This is where he'll sit and he'll talk to you in personalized videos or zoom calls," explained Red Curb Comedy owner Will Pfaffenberger, pointing out Santa's throne. "It's going to be much more than your typical video. This is the main shot, but then we got camera two, camera three, and we got the teleprompter for Santa so he doesn't miss any of his notes. There is an online form that you will fill out and kind of tell us what you want to be sure Santa covers in that message, and he will deliver the message as you see fit, and the more detail and information you offer Santa, the more magical he can be, obviously. Then, we'll send you a download link, and you can have that forever, and you can play it whenever you want to play it."
Families can also reserve live Zoom calls on Sundays or see Santa, in-person safely, with a drive-thru visit.
"We are going to have a stage outside the theater and a festive light display, and you'll be able to pull right up to the stage and roll down the windows and talk to Santa directly, of course socially-distanced, and take an 'Elfie Selfie,'" Pfaffenberger said.
At Simon Malls, Santa will be in his normal spot. But expect masks, a socially-distanced visit and reservations online, recommended in advance.
The Children's Museum is making changes this year, too.
Kids can rattle off their wish lists and get a photo from behind a fence, with Santa and his sleigh in the background during Jolly Days.
Parents can also order a virtual visit by appointment, with Santa telling holiday stories and sharing handwritten letters, for an extra charge.
It won't be "the year without a Santa Claus," just different.
"We can't wait for Santa to be able to deliver the same magic that way," Pfaffenberger said. "And it'll definitely be the most fun Zoom meeting you've been in this year."
Because let's face it: In 2020, we need Santa more than ever.