HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pandemic put a halt to lots of Christmas activities last year, including in-person meet-ups with Santa Claus.
Like everyone else, Ol’ Saint Nick had to take COVID precautions, but this year, he’s returning to Oahu’s malls, starting this week.
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There’s a nationwide shortage of nearly everything this year, and that’s putting Santa’s workshop in overdrive. The work has made it difficult for him to get to malls, but fear not Keiki will still have plenty of opportunities to meet the big guy himself, with one local mall even flying Santa in from Norway.
“We’re seeing demand over 120% increase over pre-pandemic levels. Primarily our thought is people are wanting to get back to tradition and that sense of normality,” Mitch Allen of HireSanta.coom said.
Locally, each mall on Oahu has found a fix. Windward Mall even getting St. Nick to fly in from close to the North Pole.
“This year Santa is going all the way in from…this is real…he is flying in from Norway,” Storybook Hawaii’s Casey Fortuno said. “He is bringing his friends Flurry and Snow, who I know very, very well. They’re his favorite Elves,. and they’re going to set up the Elf education station.”
That includes learning the assembly line, how to care for reindeer, and a chimney challenge.
Santa operations at Kahala, Pearlridge, and Ka Makana Alii are also well-stocked, where Keiki can take pictures with the big guy.
“There is the main guy, and I’m fortunate to have a lot of his helpers come down to all my locations and help me all through the season COVID did throw a wrench and everything. But you know, our main Santa Claus was able to find a bunch of helpers,” Owner of Expressions Portrait Design Jonathan Bello said.
Some locations will still have Santa behind plexiglass. Masks are required at every mall’s Santa spot.
“As you approach to have your photo taken, you are allowed to take your masks off, but once folks are done masks need to come on immediately as you guys proceed to the checkout,” Bello said.
Even with protocols in place, Santa brings holiday cheer and some much-needed business back to these malls.
“Santa Claus certainly is a huge draw for our community. Our Keiki families just really, really love to come out. It’s a tradition,” Pearlridge General manager David Cianelli said.
Ala Moana Center begins Nov. 18.
Kahala Mall begins Nov. 20
Ka Makana Alii begins Nov. 26
Pearlridge Center begins Nov. 26
Windward Mall begins Nov. 26