Santa goes virtual amid coronavirus pandemic: How to see him safely

NEW YORK, NY - NOV 28: Santa Claus waves from his flotat during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, November 28, 2019. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

It’s not too early to start thinking about Santa Claus. And as the coronavirus pandemic continues, parents around the globe must get creative about how to safely celebrate the Christmas icon this year.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested families opt for small holiday gatherings or skip traditional in-person festivities altogether, businesses that provide Santa experiences have gotten creative with audience outreach.

For families who want to minimize their risk, several companies have created virtual Santa visits.

Photo-printing service Chatbooks is offering free virtual visits for anyone who manages to set up a reservation. Meanwhile, other companies are charging a fee to speak to St. Nick. Websites like JingleRing and Live Calls with Santa are have a starting charge of $19.95 while celebrity shout-out platform Cameo has a selection of freelance Santas who can spread Christmas cheer at price points that vary between $26 and $75.

RELATED: If you can't 'bubble' beforehand don't go home for the holidays, expert advises

If interacting with a live Kris Kringle isn’t high on the priority list, there are digital platforms where parents can create custom videos, including Portable North Pole, Elfi and Santa Spy Cam.

Alternatively, families can always turn to the old socially-distant tradition of sending letters to Santa in exchange for one back. The U.S. Postal Service has relaunched its annual Operation Santa campaign. Letters received before Dec. 15 are most likely to receive a response from a Santa volunteer.

In-person Santa visits are still happening in malls throughout the country, but the interactions will certainly differ from years past.

The two largest mall operators in the U.S., Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties, will have socially-distanced holiday experiences that encourage reservations, wearing face masks and other health and safety procedures in order to keep families – and Santas – safe.