Instead of dropping by the mall to visit Santa Claus, there's a new tradition on the rise offering a safer alternative for families who still want to see good ol' Saint Nick amid the pandemic: Zoom Santas.
For a fee, people can hire an actor, more specifically a Santa Claus from platforms like ZoomSanta.ie and Santa Zoom Bomb, to join virtual calls and meetings, and spread the Christmas joy.
Mitch Allen, the founder of HireSanta.com, told CNN that there's still interest for virtual Santas this year, albeit it's not as big as 2020's.
"Last year, we did tens of thousands of virtual visits, but it's down substantially by about 60% to 70% this year," Allen said. "People are anxious to get back out to see Santa in person and reconnect there with friends and family. They're trying to make up for the time away."
The company is even shaking things up this year and adding more interactive elements like a virtual sleigh ride complete with a live Santa to tour the North Pole.
In May 2020, Irish entrepreneur Graham Cooley purchased the domain zoomsanta.ie as a way to keep his hands busy.
"I was sitting at home and had a lot of time in my hands and was wondering what to do if this continued. Is [the business] safe from COVID?" Cooley told Financial Times.
The Dublin entrepreneur didn't expect the business to still continue this year, but now he has 14 trained actors working as Santa.
Meanwhile, some places in the US are starting to old Saint Nick back in the malls wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. One Santa Claus in New York City sits behind a desk to keep people at least six feet away.