Pandemic professional Santa shortage leads to busy season for B.C.’s ‘Santa Bob’

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As COVID-19 continues to restrict some holiday gatherings, Santa Claus, a professional in British Columbia, says he has never been too busy.

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The pandemic has created a Santa shortage, said ‘Santa Bob’ Christofoli, who has been dressing up as jolly Old St. Nicholas at malls, private and public events since his retirement in 2018.

Their calendar is fully booked with many bookings for several days from now until Christmas Eve.

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“Actually, tomorrow I have a Zoom event with a kid from the UK,” Cristofoli said.

“This is the first time I’ve done an international Santa event and it tells me there’s definitely a shortage of Santa helpers.”

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Christofoli. works for a service called hiriyasanta.ca, which has offices in BC, Ontario and Alberta.

Rosmin Watson, the company’s North Pole operations manager, said they had to cancel about 289 bookings this season.

“We’re just telling them we don’t have availability, or we’re completely booked.”

There were more requests for Santa this year than last year, Watson said, possibly because of the wider availability of vaccines.

However, professionals like Santa Bob are in short supply – a change that came “suddenly and quickly” during the pandemic.

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“Most of our saints are in the older age group,” Watson explained. “I’ve told people they don’t want to work this year because they want to move in with their grandchildren.”

Some retired last year when the pandemic first hit, she said, while others are spending their holidays taking care of relatives or getting a surgery that was postponed by COVID-19.

Meanwhile, saints like Christofoli continue to meet children and families in person and by Zoom.

This year, he said a glass wall would separate him from children and parents, but he would be able to take off his mask in front of the barrier for a photo.

They also have a Christmas tree background for a Zoom call from the North Pole.

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The need for Santa is now greater than ever, he said, especially in BC where natural disasters have added to the stress residents already feel from COVID-19.

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