Meet Dubai’s social-distancing Santa: How Mr Claus is delivering cheer through Zoom

This jolly white-bearded man is finding a way to bring a smile to children’s faces – even through a mask

No one has remained unaffected by the coronavirus – not even the North Pole’s most famous resident.

And with social distancing measures in place, it looks like Santa Claus has his work cut out for him this year.

In light of these developments, one Dubai Santa is going to extra lengths to meet as many boys and girls around the world as he can – even if it's via a screen.

Santa Claus now has Zoom sessions

“The idea to move meetings with the children to Zoom came over the summer,” he explains. “There has just been so much uncertainty this year and, with everything moving online, getting Santa on Zoom just seemed like a natural progression.”

Zoom sessions with children start with a little research, as Santa makes sure to know a little about them before their chat begins – such as their ages, names and hobbies.

“I always tell them they’ve grown a lot since I last saw them – after all, Santa does visit every year!” he says. “I ask them to be more attentive to their parents, not to pick on their siblings. Sometimes I even remind them to keep washing those hands and using hand sanitisers.”

Please do not use this too big. It is a screen grab and poor quality. I want it like this though to show its a zoom call. 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 14, 2020: Lifestyle. Santa played by Keith Dallison on a zoom call. Santa is doing home visits with Covid-19 prevention measures in place and zoom calls to protect the children. Monday, December 14th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“The idea is to get them engaged and being proactive.”

According to this Santa, requests for Zoom sessions are growing by the day. In the first week of December he got six to 10 requests, whereas there were between 15 and 20 last week. In the week to come, he expects to hold more than 25 Zoom sessions – mostly with children from the UAE but also with those in other parts of the world.

“I try doing them in the mornings so I can leave afternoons free for home calls,” he says.

Changing Santa's gloves after every home visit

That’s right – social-distancing Santa makes home calls as well, though strict guidelines have to be followed.

“For many households, it's doorstep calls only,” he says. “I simply turn up, meet the children while keeping a two-metre distance and leave the gifts by the front door.”

If he is entering the house, more precautions are taken. “The face mask never comes off, there’s two metres of social distancing, and it’s a lucky thing Santa already wears gloves. I change them after every visit to be on the safe side.”

Quote
Being Santa is not just about saying 'ho ho ho' and climbing down a chimney. It's about the spirit of Christmas that needs to be upheld

Even visits to Santa’s grotto have changed this year. With close contact to Santa ruled out, and face masks an absolute must, he says one has to go out of their way to “remove the strangeness of the situation” when interacting with the little ones.

“I’m making an appearance at an event next week and one of the suggestions I gave was to put a desk and chair in front of Santa. Children can come, sit down and discuss what toys they want, with the desk providing an adequate barrier.”

According to him, it’s all the more important to keep up traditions this year, which has been fraught with uncertainty.

“Festivals bring people together and this year it’s more poignant because we can’t really be together. So, the question has been trying to find ways to be connected with other people, even if we are physically apart,” he explains.

But what makes all the effort worth it is the look on children’s faces, he says.

“It makes me realise what a huge responsibility this is. Being Santa is not just about saying ‘ho ho ho’ and climbing down a chimney. It’s about the magic and spirit of Christmas that needs to be upheld.”

To book a Zoom session with Santa, visit santaclaus-kd.com