COLUMBIA, S.C. — Despite the pandemic, mall owners across America are bringing Santa back this year.
To protect Santa and the families who visit him, children won't get to sit on Santa's knee this year. They will instead be offered a touchless experience.
From plexiglass and face shields at some establishments, to a socially distanced setup at Columbiana Centre in Columbia, malls are working overtime to keep the holiday tradition going.
"I think those who have been here before are used to the big house, the big structure. This year, we're scaling it back so we can achieve that social distancing," said Mackenzie Fontaine, General Manager of Columbiana Centre.
Fontaine says booking in advance will help prevent crowds. Typically, thousands of families come through Columbiana Centre to visit Santa every year.
"Kids, guests, everyone's still gonna be able to interact with Santa verbally, tell him their wish list, what they want for Christmas, ask him questions," she explained. "Santa, as always, will be sitting on his big green chair. Then, we have a secondary bench that's gonna be for visitors."
In line with the City of Columbia ordinance, Santa and children over 11 years old are required to wear a mask.
If you forget your mask, you can get one at the mall's security office.
For families who aren't comfortable with in-person visits, you can do a virtual Santa experience instead through Jingle Ring.
"It's a virtual live Santa experience," said Fontaine. "You can actually bring in multiple devices so grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, everyone can join in and really watch that experience, which is pretty cool."
Santa arrives at Columbiana Centre at 11 a.m. Black Friday.
Visiting hours for Santa are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Santa's last day at Columbiana Centre is Christmas Eve, with visiting hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
News 19 called Columbia Place Mall, who told us they will not have Santa this year.