Ottawa

Santa Claus isn't coming to Ottawa's major malls this year

Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won't be dropping by any of Ottawa's major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bayshore, Rideau, St. Laurent, Place d'Orléans shelve traditional visit from St. Nick

And what do you want for Christmas? Santa and the kids are separated by a Plexiglas divider at Hazeldean Mall, one of the city's only shopping centres to host St. Nick this year, albeit with precautions. (Frank Fenn)

Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won't be dropping by any of Ottawa's major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won't be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

I think it's best that we protect everybody ... and I think this year we want to protect Santa, too. He's getting up there.- Dr. Jane Liddle, pediatrician

"Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year," Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities "due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country."

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information. 

Visits with Santa to move online as Rideau Centre cancels in-person visits

2 years ago
Duration 0:49
Craig Flannagen, vice president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview, says visits with Santa have become an annual tradition for many families, but will not happen at the Rideau Centre this year due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

"Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa," said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. "You'll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live." 

At Place d'Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a "selfie with Santa" — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who's been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

"We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer," according to a statement on the mall's Facebook page.

Christmas past, when kids could sit on Santa's lap and smile for their annual Christmas portrait. (Chelsea Laskowski/CBC)

Santa will still be appearing in the flesh at some shopping centres, including Hazeldean Mall in Kanata, but there will be plenty of precautions in place: temperatures will be checked, hands will be sanitized and masks must be worn.

There will be no sitting on Santa's knee, either: a Plexiglas shield separating St. Nick from the youngsters will be cleaned between each visit.

Ho ho hold off, pediatrician advises

Photographer Frank Fenn, who oversees "Santa's pop-up portrait shop" at Hazeldean Mall, said extensive planning went into creating a safe, physically distanced experience.

"Ultimately, it's about delivering the magic at Christmas, and whether we're still in a pandemic in a year or two years," said Fenn.

The challenge of visiting Santa this year? ‘Delivering the magic of Christmas’ while staying safe

2 years ago
Duration 1:13
Photographer Frank Fenn, who oversees visits with Santa at Kanata’s Hazeldean Mall, says physical distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing will all be part of seeing Santa this year.

Ottawa pediatrician Jane Liddle said she wouldn't advise parents to take their kids to see Santa this year, whatever precautions are in place.

"I'm concerned that there is the possibility of spreading the virus in those type of environments," Liddle said. "I think it's best that we protect everybody ... and I think this year we want to protect Santa, too. He's getting up there."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra Abma

Journalist

Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at sandra.abma@cbc.ca.

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