Santa Claus is going virtual this year due to COVID-19—he won't even be at Macy's for the first time in almost 160 years. Here's what your family can expect this holiday season.

Father and Daughter Talking to Santa Claus on a Video Call
Credit: Getty Images

With COVID-19 cases rising across the country, families are starting to think about how to safely celebrate the holidays this year. Just like with Halloween, major adjustments have to be made to the tried-and-true traditions we all look forward to. And while big family holiday parties are off the table, your kids' yearly visit to Santa Claus can still happen—well, sort of.

Keeping in mind coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help limit the spread of COVID-19, social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent hand-washing are still highly recommended. When it comes to visiting Santa—who, spoiler alert, is usually played by an older gentleman who would likely be considered high risk—it's hard to factor in that whole 6-foot distance thing when, you know, your kid is sitting on someone's lap in the middle of a crowded mall or store. Your local mall might still be planning on a socially-distanced Santa photo experience, masks included, but it's important to remember that visiting Santa virtually is the only zero-risk option during the pandemic.

That's why, for 2020, Mall Santa is out and Virtual Santa is in. This year kids can enjoy the magic of Santa from the comfort of their own homes!

What To Expect at a Virtual Santa Visit

Children have been sitting on Santa's lap around the holidays since the 1800s, so it's understandable that families are going to feel disappointed about missing out on the beloved tradition this year.

But holiday leaders like Macy's, which has offered magical in-store events since 1861, are launching an interactive, virtual Santa experience this year, with many other retailers following suit.

“At Macy’s, the safety of our customers and colleagues is paramount,” Susan Tercero, Macy’s vice president of branded entertainment, said in a recent statement. “To replicate the magical experience of visiting Macy’s Santaland for children and their families, we will shift to a virtual engagement this year. For many, visiting Santa at Macy’s has become a long-standing highlight of the holiday season. Macy’s is delighted to have found a way to ensure even more families can enjoy this treasured experience safely during this festive time of the year.”

Macy’s Santaland at Home runs between November 27 and December 24 and boasts a special greeting from elves at the North Pole, a tour through Santa's Village and Workshop, interactive games, and, finally, a meeting with Santa. Through a pre-recorded conversation, your kids can tell Santa what they want for the holidays and snap a selfie with the man in red that parents can download immediately after. The best part? No reservations are needed, it's completely free, and families can even personalize their experience to match their cultural expectations of what Santa looks like.

And while Macy's might be one of the bigger names celebrating virtually this year, you're sure to find other options—like A Virtual Visit From the Clauses or JingleRing, which aren't free but allow you to customize your visit a bit more, or the Santa Pics app which, you guessed it, lets you get that coveted yearly photo from home—that have similar offerings for your family. Heck, your kids can even visit Santa a few times this holiday season!