Christmas is a special time for children, who are attracted by the sublime and themes of wonder and grace. As at the time of His birth, the Divine Infant radiates innocence and joy in a sinful world. Children especially sense these special graces and share in the Christmas joy. Even the commercialization of Christmas cannot overcome the supernatural atmosphere that emanates from the crib at Bethlehem.
Part of the enchantment of Christmas is the Christmas trees, carols and gifts. In America, children flocked to the secularized version of Saint Nicholas, known as Santa Claus.
However, this year the coronavirus crisis is imposing restrictions even upon Santa Claus. Thus, Santa will not be coming to many towns. In those places he will visit, he will be sanitized and made COVID-resistant with face masks and plexiglass.
Malls and shopping centers all recognize the great attraction of Santa Claus and seem willing to do anything to draw children and shoppers. Last year, more than 10 million U.S. households visited Santa. Retail stores are looking to him again to lift this year’s sagging sales. Because of the coronavirus, mall owners and department stores are announcing new norms for Santa visits.
This year, commercialized Santa will be sanitized and social-distanced. He will be stripped of everything warm and comforting and turned into a cold, muffled old man. He will be physically separated from the children, the least likely age group to get or transmit the virus.
Thus, children will not be allowed to sit in his lap and tell them what they want for Christmas. Instead, they must shout their request from six feet away, and some stores will even insist upon a plexiglass divider in between. Santa’s flowing white beard will be bound by a face mask to match that of the exuberant child. In some cases, stores will insist that Santa also wear a plastic face shield.
Other safety measures include asking parents to make online reservations to avoid lines. Workers will constantly be wiping down surfaces and replenishing hand sanitizer. Some stores will put decorations as obstacles in front of Santa’s chair to block over-exuberant children from running into his arms.
Not all shoppers will take the risk of the in-person Santa visit. Cherry Hill Programs, which arranges Santas for over 700 malls, accommodates those who insist upon greater distancing, offering Zoom calls with Santa at his North Pole facility. Children can chat with Santa from home, from one screen to another, over the Internet.
Finally, some stores have given up on having Santa at all due to the liabilities and risks. At its flagship location in New York City, Macy’s is canceling Santa Claus because it could not guarantee a safe environment for everyone. Normally, some 250,000 visit Santa every year at the store location.
With all these measures, much of the wind is removed from the commercialized Santa’s sails.
Of course, Santa Claus is not needed to celebrate Christmas. The warmth, innocence and sublimity of Christmas never came from secularized Santa, but from the Christ Child, His Blessed Mother, and Saint Joseph.
The spirit of Christmas is not found in the mad quest to obtain gifts and sensible thrills and delights. Christmas is accessible to all. Like the shepherds and the Magi, everyone can go to the manger and adore the Infant Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The neo-pagan retailers who wage war on Christmas every year have never succeeded in stifling the peace of this most august feast. Communists and persecutors of the Church have tried to erase His memory only to be frustrated in the end. No virus will ever take this joy away.
At Bethlehem, Our Lord Jesus Christ showed how foolish it is to make this world’s delights the purpose of life. The Birth of the Child Jesus in such poor condition demonstrated that all obstacles can be overcome. True peace and glory are found when all eyes are turned to God, where all men of good will find true peace and joy.