COVID-19 has not hindered Houston Santa David Doyle’s holiday spirits — he still hopes to bring joy to children across the region during the Christmas season.
However, this holiday season is providing unique challenges as professional Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clauses try to spread joy and not the novel coronavirus.
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“I don’t want a child on my lap this year, at all,” said Doyle, who is a retired safety officer and now dresses up as Santa for corporate events all around Houston.
Doyle has been preparing for the holiday season since the summer by getting his flu vaccination and taking Airborne vitamins. He also has a small table he sets up at a safe distance away from him so toddlers and children who want to talk to him can do so at a safe distance.
“This year I have eight gigs, and all of them are corporate parties,” said Doyle. “One of them I am in a giant snow globe, totally isolated. I can wave and talk out of it and everything. I’m 63 (years old), I’m not taking any chances.”
Bill and Pat Baker, a husband and wife duo who do parties and parades across Houston, are also excited for the upcoming season as they have just as many clients this year as any other.
“What really inspired us was that we had so many individuals that we’ve done Santa with, both home visits and churches and other organizations, that have reached out to us very early on and made it clear that unless we have an issue, they really want us back this year,” said Baker. “They have to have that feeling of Christmas spirit.”
Even though the couple had family members this year who passed away due to COVID-19, they trust the ministries and parents that they work with to provide proper precautions.
“We really don’t have any apprehensions about it at all,” said Bill as he described the various precautions they are taking.
From plexiglass barriers to designing their 6-foot-long sleigh into a platform for kids to use to maintain proper social distancing, the couple feels as prepared as anybody.
“Children need Mr. And Mrs. Claus more than ever this year,” said Pat. “It just brings joy to their heart, and I think they’re all struggling and this is what they need.”
For professional Santa Mike Larrivee, who doesn’t charge to dress up as Santa but only asks for donations to his favorite charities, being a Santa this year is an act of resilience.
“When you look at the demographics of what most Santas are,” said Larrivee, “they are mostly people who would be considered at risk. They’re doing different things to make functional Santa visits.”
The Bakers are putting their faith in God to keep them safe.
“We put our trust in the Babe in Bethlehem, which is what Christmas is about,” said Bill. “So we trust that (God’s) going to take care of us but (God’s also) going to take care of these families too.”