The Jolly Old Elf will return to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre this Christmas season, but visits with Santa will look a little different inn 2020 because of COVID-19 precautions. (Tim Mossholder Unsplash photo)

The Jolly Old Elf will return to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre this Christmas season, but visits with Santa will look a little different inn 2020 because of COVID-19 precautions. (Tim Mossholder Unsplash photo)

South Surrey mall’s Santa tradition continues

COVID changes – but doesn’t quash – Christmas spirit at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre: marketing manager

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced cancellation of myriad events and activities around the world, but there’s one Christmas tradition officials at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre won’t let it stand in the way of – visits with Santa.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland residents face new restrictions after another 567 new COVID-19 cases reported in B.C.

“We need to hang on to a few of our traditions this year,” marketing director Jeri Cox said.

“The visit with Santa, I just think was really important. Something to keep things somewhat the same.”

However, a few key changes did have to be implemented – including an end, at least for this year, to sitting on Santa’s knee.

Santa won’t be holding court in his usual post in the shopping centre common area out front of Purdy’s and Winners; instead, he’ll be in a vacant store space near Save-On-Foods (the site formerly home to Flight Centre) that has been decorated for the season and set up to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Visitors young and old will have to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and have their temperature taken before entering; then, they’ll be directed to stand on footprints located a safe distance from Santa, and turn to pose for their photo.

Santa won’t be masked, Cox said, “but he will be protected.”

“Nobody will be sitting with him, and they won’t be sitting down. There will be no surfaces to touch,” she said.

“I just think it’s the only way we can have it happen this year.”

Wish lists won’t be whispered into Santa’s ear, but he will still get them, Cox added. Children are asked to write down what they’d like to find under the tree, and pop the list into Santa’s mailbox during their visit. The letters will be given to his elves for Santa to read at the North Pole.

As well, photos this year must be booked in advance online, through a link on the shopping centre’s website.

“We just can’t have the lineups,” Cox explained.

And while it may have taken some time, energy and creativity to co-ordinate, Cox said there is a “beautiful” aspect to this year’s Santa story.

She explained that she reached out to a contractor who was working on a new restaurant that is coming to the shopping centre, and asked for a quote on helping transform Santa’s space.

“He came back into my office 10 minutes later and said, ‘I can’t quote you on this job,’” Cox said of Daikon Construction’s Paul Roberts. “He said, ‘My paint supply company’s donated the paint and I’m going to donate my time, and we’re going to do this for free, because it’s for Santa.’

“I just thought it was very sweet… something that’s really nice right now.”

The Jolly Old Elf is set to arrive at the 1701 152 St. shopping centre on Nov. 21, and will be available for photos daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m., until Christmas Eve. On Thursdays and Fridays, there will be an additional two-hour opportunity in the evenings, from 6-8 p.m. Those evening hours will also be in effect on Dec. 21, 22 and 23.

Cox noted there will be “a couple” of open times for people who show up without appointments, however, they will be directed to customer service first and advised as to what time slots are available and when to return.

Regardless of the changes, Cox said the spirit of the tradition remains true.

“It will be a beautiful memory, a Christmas memory for them of this very interesting year,” she said.

“We just know how important it is that people who have those photos with Santa… the image that’s the memory of the children in each of those years, and you just don’t want to miss this year – especially this year.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ChristmasCoronavirusSanta Claus

Just Posted

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Fraser Health adds 4 first-come-first-serve vaccination clinics to Surrey

First 1,000 people to show up to receive vaccine

Surrey RCMP in the 4900-block of 148th Street, a short road just off of King George Boulevard, on May 15, 2021 after a male was allegedly assaulted with a “pipe-like” weapon that morning. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey RCMP investigating after person reportedly injured with ‘pipe-like’ weapon

Police investigating incident in the 4900-block of 148th Street

Surrey Eagles head coach Cam Keith has signed a three-year contract extension with the team. (Garrett James photo)
Surrey Eagles head coach Cam Keith inks 3-year extension with BCHL club

Keith led team to a 17-2-1 record in BCHL’s 20-game ‘pod’ season

A COVID-19 warning sign on the Surrey-Langley border. As cases rise, but deaths fall lower, is it time to rethink our pandemic response? (Photo: Malin Jordan)
RETHINK: Are we following the right tack with our COVID response?

Cases are up, deaths are down; are renewed restrictions justified, or is it time to ease up?

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
‘Obviously, he’s a fighter’: Golden eagle, recovered from poisoning, back in Kootenay wild

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

A pedestrian wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 is bundled up for the cold weather as snow falls in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, February 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snow possible in mountain passes as cold front hits southern B.C.

Much of B.C.’s southern interior will see temperatures plunge from highs of 30 C reached over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Wildfire Services shows a fire on Chehalis Forest Service Road as of Sunday, May 16, 2021. (BC Fire Services)
Wildfire near Harrison Mills grows to 3 hectares, BC Fire Service on site

Resident near wildfire: ‘I pray that the Creator brings rain as soon as possible’

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 16

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

Most Read