Why Santa Claus Is a No-Show at Many Malls This Year

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The imagery of the Christmas season overwhelms every shopping center at this time of year, with candy canes, snowmen, wreaths, holly, and red, green, and gold accents everywhere you look. And while the image of Santa Claus is also ubiquitous, you can’t expect a living, breathing version of the jolly old elf at every mall in the land.

Throughout North America, most shopping centers are proceeding with the traditions of the season, including regular appearances of Santa, complete with the chance for kids to sit on his lap, tell him what they want, and get a picture taken—so long as they can endure the traditionally long line to get their turn.

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently reported, however, that Santa is showing up less, and sometimes not all at all, at certain malls. In the San Diego area, a live Santa made just a single appearance this season at the Vieja Outlets, and is only showing his face on Saturdays at the Westfield Horton Plaza Mall. The Hazard Center mall decided not to bother with booking a Santa at all.

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Are Santa appearances fewer and farther between? Well, if they are, it’s not because he’s busier at this time of year (though of course he is), nor is it due to the so-called “War on Christmas.” Mostly, the Union-Tribune explains, the decision to skip or scale back on an in-person Santa Claus comes down to the demographics of the shopping center’s typical visitors:

“We are a destination shopping center (versus a mall) that caters specifically to those who work and live in Mission Valley,” Lisa Gualco, general manager for Hazard Center, said in an email. “As such, we want to keep their shopping experience quick, efficient and convenient throughout the holiday season.”

When the bulk of a mall’s shoppers are tourists, young singles, and older folks—basically anybody other than moms with young kids—there’s little reason to devote time, space, money, and energy for a large-scale “Meet Santa” section.

Last year, the Toronto Eaton Centre mall made news—and was the subject of many complaints—when it dropped the 100-year-old tradition of hosting Santa daily throughout the holidays. Santa instead started making appearances only on Saturdays and Sundays, and was only available for photos and story time with kids whose parents had reservations for a specific session with the big guy. The mall also offered evening sessions when children could chat with Santa via Skype from the comfort of their own homes.

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Florida‘s Sandestin Resort has also become a popular option for kids hoping to Skype with Santa. For some, however, Santa on a screen is no substitute for the “real” thing in person. Unfortunately, due to budgetary cutbacks or changing demographics, some malls aren’t bothering to book Santa(s) for the season. One melodramatic tearjerker nightly news segment featured the sad, odd situation of a mall Santa suddenly finding himself without a mall—after most of the stores in a shopping center in Missouri closed.

MarketWatch reported that finding a gig as Santa—which might pay between $5,000 and $15,000 for the season—has been especially difficult lately due to increased competition and a sluggish economy:

“There’s no question about it, the number of Santas out there looking for work has grown,” says Jennifer Andrews, headmaster of the Santa School in Calgary, Alberta, which supplies Santas to stores and malls in the U.S. and around the world. She says enrollment increased fourfold this year. “And there’s not a lot of room for untrained Santas.”


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DeweySayenoff like.author.displayName 1 Like

I may sound like a Scrooge, but I really loathe the concept of Santa.  Why?  Because it's a lie we tell our kids.

What's wrong with saying Mom and Dad get the presents for our kids?  (The idiotic idea of mandatory gifting holidays is another rant entirely.)  Why is that "verboten"?  

I figured out Santa was fake when I was THREE.  I remember sitting on his lap, after being told he was the genuine article, and saw a fake beard.  Very fake.  The picture from that time doesn't show a happy kid.  It shows a kid who realized that his parents were lying.  I never went to another Santa and refused to go along with the lie for my younger siblings.

Our parents teach us that the truth is important.  That we must always tell the truth.  But in this case, our parents undermine that lesson - badly - by lying to us, repeatedly, in a conspiracy abetted by an all-too-willing society.  This tells kids that the truth is only important UNLESS it's MORE expedient to lie.  And kids wonder what else parents are lying about.  God and Santa sound an awful lot alike.  What about justice?  Seems to me there's not a lot of that.  Being "good" doesn't pay in real life since the bad guys - the ones who rob others with a pencil rather than a gun - never get punished.  Kids think that with hard work and good deeds, they'll get ahead - until they find out that's not how it really works.  It's not what you know, how talented you are or how hard you work.  It's all about who you know, how many butts you kiss on the way up and avoiding the knives of those under you who want to claw their way over your groaning body on THEIR way up.

All of the childhood illusions people think kids need in order to grow up healthy are only one series of disappointments and painful epiphanies after another as time rips back the glittering, candy-coated facade and reveals the awful, awful truth.

IMHO, it's better to tell kids the truth so they can face life with more determination and preparation in an increasingly complex world.  Santa has to go.  Be the parent, be the gifter and be someone your child can trust to look up to you for standing up for your principles and ideals and backing them up with honesty and integrity.  Their childhood may not be as magical, but their adulthood will be much happier, and they'll be an adult a whole lot longer than they'll be a child.


LOL! It's kids man not a grown adult who's ready to go tackle the job world the very next day. It's fun to imagine when your a kid that some guy is crusing around the town with flying raindeers dropping off presents. It's fun to watch snowman cartoons and santa movies. What negative impact you had on your siblings b/c you had the advantage of being older. You're a type of person who likes to give away movie plots, a spoiler, a person who many people say, please don't tell me no more I haven't seen it yet. Your a peson who shouldn't ever have suprise birthdays. A person who should never be told a secret. You're not much fun to hang around with all b/c you saw a man in a santa suit with a fake beard. You should've went back to your parents and told them secretly that the gig is up, you now know. Instead you chose the path to destruction. 


@DeweySayenoff I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at your post. To tell you the truth (since you seem to have a fetish for it), I find it easier to doubt the authenticity of anything you said, it's so out there.

You don't seem like Scrooge to me. More like a bitter, grumbling Cratchett.