Santa stays safe despite COVID-19

Photo provided by Santa
Hudson Bauer, 7, left, and Mason Bauer, 4, visit with Santa at his house on the Jasper Downtown Square.


JASPER — Santa Claus was tired of sitting behind a plexiglass shield.

Earlier in December, Santa spent his weekends sitting inside his house on the Jasper Downtown Square, waiting for kids and their families to visit. He’d sit behind his shield to protect from COVID-19 and talk to the kids through their masks, but it just didn’t feel the same.

Enough was enough, he thought. He decided to move out onto his front porch while the weather was nice so he could visit with the kids face-to-face — still 6 feet apart, of course.

Santa was vaccinated for COVID-19 at his home in the North Pole by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But Santa wanted to do everything he could to keep the families safe, just in case.

Sunday, Dec. 20, was the last day Santa sat in his house on the Square before he needed to prepare for his journey around the world. He thought it would be a slow day, that the families who wanted to see him had already done so. Ultimately, it was probably busier than any other day, Santa said.

Sitting out on his front porch meant Santa could see more people, too. Those in cars passing by rolled down their windows and called out to him, parents took selfies with their kids and Santa, and for just a split second, the kids could remove their masks to snap a photo and pretend it was a normal year.

“It gave them a sense of security that, yeah, there is still Christmas,” Santa said in a Tuesday interview.

In addition to asking everyone what they wanted for Christmas, Santa asked everyone what their favorite cookie is. Then, he asked the kids to make two for him and one for themselves.

“If it’s your favorite cookie, then it’s going to be Santa’s favorite cookie, too,” he told them.

Santa remembers everyone that stopped by, but he’ll especially remember one little boy with red hair who told him about his entire family, read off his entire Christmas list, and then stopped by Santa's house again later in the day. “I’ve got to tell you a few more things,” he told Santa.

Christmas isn’t just about the kids, though, Santa said. Some of his fondest memories are of visiting nursing homes and handing out candy canes to the residents.

“Getting to be a part of somebody’s life, even if just for a second, is priceless,” he said.

Before the pandemic, Santa would make house calls as Christmas approached. He said he missed doing that this year, but it wouldn’t be as safe. So everyone had to come to him.

Before he’d arrive at his house on the Square, he’d get all dolled up for photos. When he first started visiting with kids many years ago, he wore a cheap suit. Soon, though, he decided he needed to upgrade if he was going to look his best.

After putting on the suit, he’d put on some makeup and his bifocals, which were passed down from his great-great-grandfather, and make sure his hair is in the right place.

The suit can get hot and sweaty after a while — he doesn’t usually wear it around the house — but that’s the price he pays to get that quintessential Santa look. Sure, he could probably wear something else if he really wanted to, but when Santa wants to go all out, he goes all out, he said.

At the end of the weekend, Santa realized there were many more visitors than he expected. He said he hopes he lifted the families’ spirits as much as they lifted his. He really needed this after such a hard year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added some extra stress onto the occasion, but luckily Santa has been adapting his plan since March. Now, Santa is focusing on wrapping last-minute gifts and fueling the sleigh — and his reindeer — before he visits all the homes in Dubois County tonight.

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