The Jolly Old Elf will return to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre this Christmas season, but visits with Santa will look a little different inn 2020 because of COVID-19 precautions. (Tim Mossholder Unsplash photo)

The Jolly Old Elf will return to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre this Christmas season, but visits with Santa will look a little different inn 2020 because of COVID-19 precautions. (Tim Mossholder Unsplash photo)

South Surrey mall’s Santa tradition continues

COVID changes – but doesn’t quash – Christmas spirit at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre: marketing manager

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced cancellation of myriad events and activities around the world, but there’s one Christmas tradition officials at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre won’t let it stand in the way of – visits with Santa.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland residents face new restrictions after another 567 new COVID-19 cases reported in B.C.

“We need to hang on to a few of our traditions this year,” marketing director Jeri Cox said.

“The visit with Santa, I just think was really important. Something to keep things somewhat the same.”

However, a few key changes did have to be implemented – including an end, at least for this year, to sitting on Santa’s knee.

Santa won’t be holding court in his usual post in the shopping centre common area out front of Purdy’s and Winners; instead, he’ll be in a vacant store space near Save-On-Foods (the site formerly home to Flight Centre) that has been decorated for the season and set up to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Visitors young and old will have to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and have their temperature taken before entering; then, they’ll be directed to stand on footprints located a safe distance from Santa, and turn to pose for their photo.

Santa won’t be masked, Cox said, “but he will be protected.”

“Nobody will be sitting with him, and they won’t be sitting down. There will be no surfaces to touch,” she said.

“I just think it’s the only way we can have it happen this year.”

Wish lists won’t be whispered into Santa’s ear, but he will still get them, Cox added. Children are asked to write down what they’d like to find under the tree, and pop the list into Santa’s mailbox during their visit. The letters will be given to his elves for Santa to read at the North Pole.

As well, photos this year must be booked in advance online, through a link on the shopping centre’s website.

“We just can’t have the lineups,” Cox explained.

And while it may have taken some time, energy and creativity to co-ordinate, Cox said there is a “beautiful” aspect to this year’s Santa story.

She explained that she reached out to a contractor who was working on a new restaurant that is coming to the shopping centre, and asked for a quote on helping transform Santa’s space.

“He came back into my office 10 minutes later and said, ‘I can’t quote you on this job,’” Cox said of Daikon Construction’s Paul Roberts. “He said, ‘My paint supply company’s donated the paint and I’m going to donate my time, and we’re going to do this for free, because it’s for Santa.’

“I just thought it was very sweet… something that’s really nice right now.”

The Jolly Old Elf is set to arrive at the 1701 152 St. shopping centre on Nov. 21, and will be available for photos daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m., until Christmas Eve. On Thursdays and Fridays, there will be an additional two-hour opportunity in the evenings, from 6-8 p.m. Those evening hours will also be in effect on Dec. 21, 22 and 23.

Cox noted there will be “a couple” of open times for people who show up without appointments, however, they will be directed to customer service first and advised as to what time slots are available and when to return.

Regardless of the changes, Cox said the spirit of the tradition remains true.

“It will be a beautiful memory, a Christmas memory for them of this very interesting year,” she said.

“We just know how important it is that people who have those photos with Santa… the image that’s the memory of the children in each of those years, and you just don’t want to miss this year – especially this year.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ChristmasCoronavirusSanta Claus

Just Posted

The City of Surrey partnered with the Work Zone Safety Alliance last year to remind drivers to slow down in construction zones. (File photo)
White Rock, Surrey motorists asked to slow down in ‘cone zones’

Provincewide campaign encouraging residents to be mindful of construction workers

Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society volunteers stand on the train platform in Cloverdale in 2020. A new exhibit about FVHRS and Surrey’s train history opens at the Museum of Surrey June 2. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
New exhibition on Surrey’s train history to open at Museum of Surrey

Separate two-day event welcomes kids June 25-26

A new DPD team began targeting gang-related activity on May 15, including checking on individuals who must abide by curfews and conditions. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police taking action to address gang conflict

Three-pronged strategy focused on interdiction, investigation and prevention

Semiahmoo First Nation archeology manager Don Welsh (left) sifts through shell midden at a Crescent Beach site in August 2019. (File photo)
Semiahmoo First Nation to repatriate 200 ancestors

B.C. grant funding return of remains from Simon Fraser University

File photo: Tom Zytaruk
Surrey cops investigate shooting overnight at Whalley home with long history of gunshots

Police received reports about shots fired at a house in the 10800-block of 139A Street at about 4:15 a.m. Sunday

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

(Vancouver Police Department)
Vancouver police expect violence to escalate, ID 6 gangsters who pose ‘public safety risk’

VPD asking public to stay away from these six people, who they say may be targeted in shootings

Most Read