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Okanagan Santas, helpers get creative to keep spirit of Christmas alive in region

Click to play video: 'Okanagan Santa’s get creative to keep the spirit of Christmas alive' Okanagan Santa’s get creative to keep the spirit of Christmas alive
WATCH: It's one of the most treasured holiday traditions; kids lining up to climb into Santa’s lap while clutching their wish lists and wriggling with excitement to catch up with their old friend Saint Nick. But this year Santa is making everyone's nice list as he finds unique ways to carry on that tradition amid a pandemic. Sydney Morton reports. – Dec 14, 2020

Known for a big red suit, long white beard and a cheery smile, Father Christmas himself is synonymous with the holiday season.

But it’s taking some extra creativity during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure kids can still give their wish lists and have an annual visit with the man in red.

At Osoyoos’ Junction 3 Coffee House, co-owners Sara van der Hoeven and Hart Pauls have set up Santa in an outdoor igloo.

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“We came up with making the inside of the igloo snowy with snowflakes, a fireplace and a tree and put Santa in and the kids could still come up and talk to him right face-to-face with (him because of) the separation,” said van der Hoeven.

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Since kids can’t sit on Santa’s lap safely like in years past, the igloo is giving them a sense of normalcy. Because Santa is zipped up inside, he and the kids don’t have to wear masks.

Van der Hoeven and Pauls have put their own regulations in place, though. Santa visits start after they close the coffee shop for the day, families must book ahead of time and will be allowed a 20-minute maximum visit. They also don’t allow any drop-ins to just take a quick photo to prevent any crowds from forming.

With their regulations in place to prevent any possible spread of COVID-19, the Santa visits have been a success and the duo have a growing waitlist.

“From the time we start at 5:15 p.m. and the first kids show up, they are just so excited to get out of that vehicle (to see Santa),” said van der Hoeven.

Read more: Efforts underway to pull off Okanagan’s largest toy drive despite actual event being cancelled

Tom ‘Santa Tom’ Kliner, who is perhaps one of Santa’s most famous helpers in the valley, has taken his holiday spirit online, scheduling video calls and pre-recording messages for kids.

“I flip down to the north pole media centre, throw on my coat and hat and I am ready to go,” said Kliner. “It’s amazing how well the kids have taken to it and I didn’t think it was going to be as much fun as it is.”

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Santa Tom expects that by Christmas Day he will have virtually connected with hundreds of kids, wishing them all a very happy Christmas and he is still scheduling calls. 

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