Book your video call with the man in red here: Father Christmas goes Zoom.

With many Christmas grottos cancelled, Santa is going virtual this year. You didn’t think he’d let down the kids, did you? As COVID-19 restrictions play havoc with family plans and the usual grotto, Christmas 2020 is all about socially distanced interactive online experiences. As we keep discovering, anything can happen on video chat, from birthday parties to weddings; so why not Santa Claus?

Can you, can’t you, should you? While visiting Father Christmas is a rite of passage for most children, families may not be able to find, or have the inclination to visit in person this year. Many of the country’s most famous grottos, such as those at Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, and most shopping centres are not running their in-house Santa. Fortuitously, Father Christmas has embraced technology and now offers personalised video calls transmitted in a safe, socially distanced online experience. After so much has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, why not book a virtual Santa trip that is actually going to happen?

No masks are needed for this (online) trip to Father Christmas. Parents just need a device that runs Zoom, a strong internet connection and to know how to sign up. Here we look at seven sites where Santa is offering video conferencing sessions with children.

Santa at Home

Who better to introduce you to the merits of a virtual Santa than Underbelly, one of the very best Christmas event producers in the UK? Trust us, this will be a corker. Forget your pandemic problems, there is plenty to get excited about as Underbelly launch the official online grotto Santa at Home. Up to six children can meet Santa in their sessions with unlimited family members watching on. He will know the names, and plenty more, about every child that he meets. It promises to be something you’ll want to remember so it’s a bonus that the session will be recorded, and you can keep the free video file forever. Santa at Home is supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and The Brain Tumour Charity. The 12-minute sessions start at £42 for up to six children.

Santa Live from Lapland

Whilst complying with social distancing rules makes the traditional time-honoured trip to Santa nigh on impossible this year, you can still reach out online. ‘This year we all have to stay a safe distance apart, so I’m hoping families will welcome me into their homes, by the magic of video instead,’ says the Santa Live from Lapland site. ‘I’m not the best with technology, I prefer magic reindeer dust, but my clever little helpers have been busy setting up a way to talk with me online so I can still help make your Christmas wishes come true from afar.’ This video call is not the cheapest, but – as it says on the tin - it is filmed from actual Lapland. Prices start from £85 for a live family video call of up to 15 minutes.

Say It with Santa

Who knew Father Christmas was quite so savvy on social media? Finland, voted the happiest country three times in a row, has organised socially distanced visits to the big man. The tourist board Visit Finland has arranged a series of special free Christmas broadcasts on its YouTube channel. However, it is something of a lottery if your child can get involved. After receiving thousands of video greeting applications, their elves are currently selecting about 80 to turn into video greetings. Children can meet Santa in a live stream on Visit Finland’s social media channels on 11 December or apply for a private one-to-one session with Santa Claus nearer Christmas. Free.

Santa’s Calling You

‘Nearly 400 applied for acting roles and we are still looking for more Santas,’ said actor James Bartlett who lost work in the pandemic and then set up Santa’s Calling You. His site sells Zoom calls with Santa, Mrs Claus and elves. He uses green screen technology which makes it look and feel like the video is being made from the North Pole. Each video call will last between eight and ten minutes unless you request for additional time to your call, which then may involve having Santa read out a story. By planning the online session in advance, parents give personal details to Santa such as pet names, favourite colours and which present the child wants. Prices start from £19.99.

The Entertainer

Turns out Santa has Wi-Fi at the North Pole which is a jolly good thing for children who are missing out this Christmas due to COVID-19. For the first time ever, the family-owned high street toy shop The Entertainer has teamed up with toy company Mattel to create a virtual grotto experience. They have 50 places to Santa’s virtual grotto giveaway where families will get to dial through to the North Pole to chat to Santa and his elves. In order to support some of the families most at need, 25 of the 50 places will be split between families from The Salvation Army nurseries and families by the support group Enabled who help people with a disability and their carers. The remaining 25 spots are open to the public to win for free.

Wonder Adventures

‘It will be safe and personalised – you don’t have to queue, you can dress up, with a hot chocolate in the comfort of your own home,’ said Helen Nurse, who runs Wonder Adventures and normally would be hosting a series of festive events. ‘There’s always been a pressure on parents at Christmas but it’s even bigger this year.’ This year, Wonder Adventures are offering live interaction 40-minute sessions with Santa online. He will address the child by name and bring a jolly Christmas tale and virtual sleigh-ride adventure. His elves will teach you the Elf March. From £12.99.

Santa’s Lapland

‘With restrictions increasing throughout the UK, many of us have been wondering how we will keep the magic of Christmas 2020 alive,’ said Paul Carter, Chief Executive of Santa’s Lapland. ‘While no Christmas can compare to the sheer excitement of travelling to Lapland… with the help of a little ‘tech’, we intend to ensure it’s still a Christmas to remember.’ Typically, he would be organising three- and four-day family holidays to Lapland with (real-life) husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides. This year has been rather more challenging. As an alternative to the real deal, they can arrange 10-minute video calls to Lapland, where families are given a tour of Santa’s snowy cabin and introduced to the reindeer. Prices start from £85 per family and include a personalised video call of up to 15 minutes.

By Annabel Jack
December 2020

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Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.