Father Christmas will be Zooming from the North Pole this year, as Christmas grottos close around the country due to coronavirus restrictions.
The nationwide lockdown, which came into effect on Thursday, November 5, has meant that all non-essential businesses must close for 4 weeks.
Many Christmas activities, such as grottos and Santa Claus meetings, have been forced to move all their operations online, with kids ‘phoning in’ to Lapland as the only viable option left for many.
Though many businesses had made plans for socially distanced and COVID-secure gatherings, they will now have to wait until after the lockdown is lifted on December 2.
Which businesses will be offering Christmas Zooms?
Santa’s Lapland, a tour operator which normally organises Christmas trips to Finland to meet Father Christmas in person, is offering video calls instead.
For 10 minutes, kids (and adults!) can phone into Lapland, where they get to see inside Santa’s snowy cabin and meet his reindeer.
Chief executive Paul Carter told BBC News: ‘With restrictions increasing throughout the UK, many of us have been wondering how we will keep the magic of Christmas 2020 alive,’
‘While no Christmas can compare to the sheer excitement of travelling to Lapland… with the help of a little ‘tech’, we intend to ensure it’s still a Christmas to remember.’
One business that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic is Santascallingyou.co.uk, which actor James Bartlett set-up after he lost work due to coronavirus.
The company, which has seen almost 400 people apply for acting roles, sells Zoom calls with Father Christmas, his wife and little helpers, too.
Since news of the second lockdown broke, and uncertainty about whether it really will end in December, the website has seen an increase in bookings.
‘People aren’t optimistic about the restrictions ending on 2 December, so this is a guaranteed personalised experience for your children,’ Bartlett said.
Another kids’ events company is moving from their physical venue to hosting virtual Christmas experiences on Facebook instead.
Interacting with kids on the Facebook Live, children have the option of taking up reindeer training, a sleigh-ride, or elf-themed treasure hunt – all virtual of course.
‘We didn’t want to take the risk of planning our usual live Christmas events, in case of a second lockdown, and we were right,’ said Helen Nurse, who runs Facebook-based Wonder Adventures.
Are there any physical events still on?
Many of the most popular Christmas grottos in England, like those at London’s Harrods and Fortnum and Mason, have cancelled plans for any live Father Christmases this year.
However, some smaller grottos have made the move to digital.
In Wales, whose lockdown ends on 9 November, some venues are moving full steam ahead – with COVID restrictions, of course.
In Newport, Celtic Manor is hosting ‘Santa’s Tea Party’, where customers can visit a Christmas-themed restaurant with a jolly afternoon tea, as well as a virtual dial in from the North Pole.
‘Santa has decided it will be safer to follow the Welsh government’s advice and work from home wherever possible this festive season,’ a Celtic Manor Resort representative said.
There are some English venues that are still holding out hope the lockdown restrictions will be lifted, like LaplandUK in Ascot, Berkshire.
The venue, which normally has more than 20,000 families attending, spent £4.5m on making its offering Covid-secure.
But, until the lockdown is lifted, Father Christmas’ gates will remain closed.