Santa Claus, elves get vaccinated against COVID-19 before travelling to Quebec from the North Pole
Santa and Mrs. Claus wave to spectators in this undated file photo. (AP)
MONTREAL -- Santa Claus is getting his shot -- and getting it twice -- before coming to visit children across Quebec ahead of the holiday season.
As per provincial health orders, Saint Nick and his elves must be fully vaccinated, physically distanced and required to wear masks, explains Lara Berguglia, a spokesperson for the Cadillac Fairview malls, including Carrefour Laval, Fairview Pointe-Claire and Promenades St-Bruno.
"Santa’s log cabin is carefully designed with health and safety protocols in mind, including staggered bookings to allow for cleaning between each visit," she states. "Guests will be allowed to quickly remove their masks for the photo moment, while maintaining their masks when in line or interacting with Santa."
However, it hasn't all been smooth sleigh-ing for Santa.
It seems Quebec's labour shortage has reached the North Pole, with Father Christmas working overtime due to a shortage of elves.
The Agence des pères Noël professionnels du Québec (APNPQ), which offers services to malls, as well as businesses and individuals, says its been struggling to find Santa his little helpers.
"There is no Santa shortage on our end this year, we have roughly the same pool of Old Saint Nicks as in previous years," said Catherine Lacasse, spokesperson for the organization. "It's more in the elf department that we had to make more efforts to hire candidates."
The agency, which has been around for 25 years, says despite the difficulty, it has been able to scrape together enough characters willing to come dashing through the snow.
"One of the challenges this year, however, is that people want a Santa at the last minute and are undecided whether they want an in-person or virtual package," Lacasse explains. "Decisions are made at the last minute and put pressure on us to serve clients properly in a reasonable time frame."
With Quebecers hoping to be able to gather with their loved ones this holiday season, Santa's schedule is quickly filling up.
Les Pères Noël, which specializes in corporate, residential and daycare events, says it has a packed program.
"We're completely booked," said President Pierre Heroux. "We can't take any more appointments because we're just three."
For its part, the APNPQ says it has more than 100 artists who bring Saint Nick, Mrs. Claus and the elves to life.
"It is a year-round business, a big family of people committed and dedicated to the Christmas industry," Lacasse explains.
She notes the agency has but one goal during the holiday season: "to keep the magic of Christmas alive for children and families."