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Santa shortage looms as holidays draw near

November 11, 2021, 5:00 PM UTC

While COVID-19 numbers are off their peaks, older, overweight Americans remain at higher risk. And that’s creating a shortage of Santas as we enter the holiday season.

The Wall Street Journal reports Santa bookers are overwhelmed as events and organizations try to bring Saint Nick to their functions this year after taking last year off. But health concerns have many Santas opting to sit another winter out.

For instance, Susen Mesco, founder of a professional Santa school in Denver, said she usually receives 15 to 20 requests for “Christmas in July” events, but this year she had 70 by February. And as the holidays loom, the demand has only increased.

“About once every eight minutes I’m getting calls from someone who wants a Santa Claus for some event,” Mesco told a local TV station.

A separate school in Texas says it has 10% to 15% fewer Santas to send out this year, while bookings have seen a 121% increase.

The good news is the shortage means some extra jingle for the Kris Kringle cosplayers. Mesco says her Santas are earning about 12% more this year. (And in California, they’re earning up to $300 per hour—$50 more per hour than last year.) They’re also working more events than ever—and on nontraditional nights.

It’s not just health concerns for the Santas. Some have moved since the start of the pandemic to be closer to family, causing shortages in areas that used to depend on them.

Last year, many malls kept their Santas behind plexiglass or cancelled the holiday tradition altogether. Thanks to vaccines, that looks to be easing this year, with many shopping centers reinstituting pictures. Mask policies vary by location.

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