We all know this time of year is difficult for Father Christmas.
Checking who’s naughty or nice, looking after all the elves and reindeer, and of course, delivering presents to millions of children across the globe in one night.
But this year he has a yet another challenge to deal with – Covid-19.
A few weeks ago the Prime Minister moved to reassure children that coronavirus wouldn’t stop the jolly figure coming to the UK.
So Metro.co.uk decided to catch up with the man himself to find out his secrets to Covid-secure this winter – and why a potentially deadly illness won’t stop him bringing magic to children’s lives.
‘We initially spoke back in July about how it all would work, when we realised we might not be able to see children in person,’ said Father Christmas – who in his spare time is also known as Joseph Ridgely.
‘And since November, I’ve managed to do about 350 Zoom calls, and we’ve managed to make it a really magical experience.’
Joe, who is 61 and lives in Birmingham, usually works with an agency to go into schools and visit children, but now they’ve gone down the virtual route.
‘At the moment, we’re speaking to 11 schools a day,’ he said.
‘The feedback we’ve had has been great – they’ve said it felt just like a real experience and it was just what they needed during the pandemic.’
He said interestingly, children haven’t minded not seeing Father Christmas in real life.
This may be because they have become so used to their families video calling others through the Covid-19 crisis.
‘I try and stay logical and as scientific as possible when discussing Santa, and I actually think speaking to children over Zoom makes sense,’ explained Joe, who is a theatre in education director, and part-time actor.
We spoke to another Father Christmas and he gave us a message to pass on to children worried about coronavirus. Watch it below:
‘Of course, as Santa lives in the North Pole, that is how he would contact people anyway, he wouldn’t be able to see them in person as it’s too far away.
‘We have a system where if my light is green I am free to talk, but if it goes red I have to urgently go and speak to the head elf, so it’s like I really am in the toy factory.’
Although Joe says speaking to children over video call instead of in real life isn’t as difficult as he imagined, what he wasn’t as prepared for were the questions.
‘They ask for coronavirus to go away’
He said: ‘When I ask them what they want for Christmas, they just ask for the virus to go away.’
Joe, who is also a magician, said what he finds ‘really interesting’ is how children seem to have unconsciously picked up on the impact of Covid-19 on their parents’ financial situations.
‘The Christmas presents they’re asking for this year are definitely not as expensive as they usually are.
‘The other most common question is whether Santa can still visit them in their homes. I reassure them straight away that I can.
‘I tell them I have double immunity – I can’t catch it, and can’t spread it either.’
Joe also uses their questions to encourage children to stay Covid-safe themselves, for example, by washing their hands.
‘I tell them I follow all the guidance, and to leave me cookies, milk and hand sanitiser under the Christmas tree, that works well,’ he laughed.
He added though he’s relieved he can still do a ‘job I love’, and still continue to bring magic to the lives of children – especially during a difficult time.
‘My favourite thing is my naughty and nice hourglass,’ Joe explained.
‘Every kid makes it onto the nice list, but they are not 100% nice, so they don’t feel like they have to be perfect all the time.’
Joe works for Envisage, a promotional and event staffing agency which is also the largest Santa for Hire in the UK.
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