No sitting on Santa’s lap: Rochester’s holiday meet-and-greets adapt to pandemic


ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Meeting Santa Clause for the holiday season is the latest tradition that COVID-19 has altered, as many Santa agencies and local meet-and-greet events are changing the way Santa Claus comes to town. 

Jeff Meteyer, who has been dressing up like Santa for the past three years, noticed the change at a Christmas tree lighting event.

“The biggest difference was not being able to embrace, the kids. The kid’s natural behaviors is, they’ll ran up to you and give you a hug, this year they couldn’t do that. Sometimes it’s a challenge to when kids have masks and your trying to listen to what they’re asking for,” said Jeff Meteyer, Santa 3 years.

At the Greece Ridge Mall, people will have to wait in line staying six feet apart, before they head up to meet the big man, and while they are talking to Santa they must have a mask on at all time.

Cherry Hill Program, the agency behind the Santa in malls around our area, has developed new guidelines for this year.

Meeting with Santa will be completely contactless, children must be masked and socially distance, that means no sitting on Santa’s lap. Families are encouraged to make appointments for the visits and staff will have daily health screenings and periodic cleanings of Santa’s set.

Local community events are following similar protocols

“Before we have an event we’ll go through and spray down our outfits with Lysol and we’ll also use hand sanitizer. We’ll be wearing gloves throughout the entire event as well as face shields or face masks,” said Meteyer.

With most holiday events and large gathering canceled due to COVID-19, Meteyer believes doing the Santa activities with social distance still allows kids the chance to experience the excitement of Christmas.

“You know they want to try to keep as much normalcy in the holiday as possible and kids are used to going up and seeing Santa for all kinds of things and they like that Santa is wearing a mask as well so we’re all in it together,” said Meteyer.

Visits with Santa Claus at the Greece Ridge, Marketplace, and Eastview mall will begin December 4th. 

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