With some shopping malls, stores and attractions opting out of in-person visits with Santa this holiday season, Daniel Cresswell is going virtual with the experience.
The Surrey resident has launched talktosanta.ca as a platform for kids to tell the jolly ol’ elf exactly what they want for Christmas, via Zoom conferences.
“This year I want families to know Christmas might be a little different but Santa will be there to check his ‘nice and naughty’ list and talk to boys and girls around the world from North Pole,” Cresswell said of the enterprise, which he’s marketing on facebook.com/rentasantamobilesanta.
Surrey’s largest shopping mall, Guildford Town Centre, won’t be hosting Santa this holiday season, following a corporate decision by mall operator Ivanhoe Cambridge to cancel all “Holiday Marketing” activations in the company’s properties this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As well, Cadillac Fairview says it is moving all Santa experiences to virtual and online-only this year, in all 19 of the company’s shopping centres.
In recent years Cresswell has dressed jolly for the holidays at stores around the Lower Mainland, in addition to corporate gigs and community events.
“It’s just something I started off from doing my other thing, which was a delivery service,” said Cresswell, who lives in the Clayton area. “My son mentioned to me, ‘Hey Dad, why don’t you go out and dress like Santa, celebrate Christmas and do your deliveries.’ I thought it was a great idea, so I went and bought a costume and did that, and it brought a lot of joy to kids when I was delivering pizzas, that kind of stuff. And the next year I took it more seroius and started up a business of doing that, at malls and other places.”
He launched mobilesanta.ca as a portal for in-person visits, but this year he’s more focused on virtual visits.
“But I still dress up and go to pet stores for photos, things like that,” he explained. “I love it, I love the kids, and I drive around in the costume and get reactions from people, waving to people and getting smiles and families walking down the street.”
He’s also part of a Jingle Ring network of around 500 “Santas” based in the U.S.
“It’s huge, but that’s a different thing from what I’m doing on my own, a local kind of thing,” Cresswell said.
“Christmas isn’t cancelled, Santa is still going to show up on the 24th — that’s what I tell the kids I talk to,” he added.
“I have about 15 to 20 bookings right now, but it’s still a bit early. People are probably waiting until that first week of December, and my first one is on Dec. 1, with three families coming on with their kids, and they’ll tell me what they want for Christmas, that kind of thing. And later I’ll follow up and do another session saying, ‘You know, I got your list, I hope you’ve been a good boy or girl, I’ll be there tomorrow,’ just to hype the kids up a bit.”