Naughty or nice, there's no sitting on Santa's lap this year

On the nice list: Four-year-old Nicholas Lambie of East Maitland, posing with Santa for his annual Christmas pic at Stockland Green Hills. Picture: Simone De Peak
On the nice list: Four-year-old Nicholas Lambie of East Maitland, posing with Santa for his annual Christmas pic at Stockland Green Hills. Picture: Simone De Peak

It's been described as the year of missed opportunities.

Postponed weddings, cancelled holidays and panic buying toilet paper have been some of the social low lights of 2020.

But now the global pandemic has changed that most wonderful Christmas tradition - the Santa photo.

Whether you are on the naughty list or the nice list, COVID means there's no sitting on the jolly man's lap.

Yes little one, we agree, this year has been one giant eye roll. Nicholas Lambie shows his frustration at not being in touching distance of the beloved Santa Claus. Picture: Simone De Peak

Yes little one, we agree, this year has been one giant eye roll. Nicholas Lambie shows his frustration at not being in touching distance of the beloved Santa Claus. Picture: Simone De Peak

In a bid to keep our social distancing measures working to stop the spread of the virus, the traditional Santa photo may have changed - but not the magic.

As Simone De Peak's photographs show, the joy from a visit to see Santa for four-year-old Nicholas Lambie from East Maitland was undeniable.

It didn't matter that he couldn't sit on Santa's lap, Nicholas had a smile a mile wide when he went for his annual photo at Stockland Green Hills.

"He had a ball, he loved it," his mother Evelyn Hicklin said. "I actually think he enjoyed the extra distance, not sitting up so close.

"I have to admit though, I wasn't aware he was pulling all those cheeky faces at the photographer."

Nicholas was sitting on a special stool, the appropriate social distance away from Santa and the centre also encourages families to bring along their own props to make the photo special.

Stockland Green Hills centre manager Jodie Bouffler said they were pleased to still be able to offer many of the same cherished experiences that customers have come to expect, including Santa photos.

He may not be sitting on Santa's knee but this year's Santa photo of four-year-old Nicholas Lambie is sure to be cute. Picture: Simone De Peak

He may not be sitting on Santa's knee but this year's Santa photo of four-year-old Nicholas Lambie is sure to be cute. Picture: Simone De Peak

"We've all been through a challenging year with many of the same restrictions, and so we know that customers will understand that some of these activities have needed to be modified to provide a Covid-Safe experience," she said.

"That means that Santa photos are socially-distant, with children seated on a separate chair next to Santa, as well as pre-booked online."

In Maitland's central business district, free, social distanced Santa photos will take place at The Riverlink from Thursday, November 26.

A Maitland City Council spokesman said keeping everyone safe, while also providing what will be a unique reminder of 2020, is the priority.

"We thank everyone for their understanding," the spokesman said.

"Having to be socially distanced from Santa this year may come as a relief for some, saving tears and tantrums from those less happy about getting too close.

"We will continue to monitor Government guidelines and health orders while looking forward to bringing a little Christmas cheer into our community."

Families must use a new COVID Safe QR code sign up system to see Santa. That will mean people can sign up using their phones and shop while they wait instead of standing in a queue.

Sessions take place every Thursday from 3pm to 7pm and Friday and Saturday 9am to 1pm until December 19.

Limited spaces will be available, with Covid safety measures and social distancing in place at the sessions - also meaning no sitting on Santa's lap.

Nicholas Lambie hams it up for the camera. Picture: Simone De Peak

Nicholas Lambie hams it up for the camera. Picture: Simone De Peak

There's no doubt the global pandemic that is Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc on the world, with heartbreaking stories of lives lost, families separated at their most vulnerable hour, economic and employment losses and a crisis in mental health.

The 'normality' of Christmas was something many were looking forward to.

Look away now if you think the Christmas decorations in shops come out too early: Christmas trees have gone up in October in plenty of homes across the country as people look to inject a little joy into the tail end of what has been a bleak year.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the dozens of Christmas-themed Facebook groups, some with 50,000 plus members, all sharing the joy of their decorations.

Santa from afar. Picture: Simone De Peak

Santa from afar. Picture: Simone De Peak

IN THE NEWS:

This story Covid-safe Santa photos first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.