Santa Claus won't be leaving the North Pole this year for his annual holiday visit to Macy's flagship store in New York.
For the first time in nearly 160 years, the jolly old elf will not make an appearance at Macy's Santaland as the coronavirus pandemic poses too many risks for such a crowded experience.
The department store will instead move the tradition to an online platform to "safely bring the joy of the season to visitors nationwide from the comfort of home," according to a press release.
Families can access the event beginning Friday, Nov. 27 through Thursday, Dec. 24 at the Macy's Santaland at Home website and up to three children can take part in the customized experience at a time.
"At Macy’s, the safety of our customers and colleagues is paramount," Susan Tercer, Macy's vice president of branded entertainment, said in the release. "To replicate the magical experience of visiting Macy’s Santaland for children and their families, we will shift to a virtual engagement this year."
She added, "For many, visiting Santa at Macy’s has become a long-standing highlight of the holiday season. Macy’s is delighted to have found a way to ensure even more families can enjoy this treasured experience safely during this festive time of the year."
The online experience will include a special greeting from Santaland elves, interactive games, a virtual tour of Santa's workshop, and an interactive meet-and-greet with Santa where kids can snap a selfie with the holiday figure.
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Parents are also able to choose their "preferred diversity experience" for their children's visit with Santa.
According to the Associated Press, Santa will also be skipping appearances at Macy's Chicago and San Francisco stores.
He will, however, still be a part of this year's televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
In September, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the popular event will be mostly virtual amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"It will be a different kind of event. They’re reinventing the event for this moment in history, and you’ll be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day on television, online," he said. "Not a live parade but something that will really give us that warmth and that great feeling we have on Thanksgiving Day."
This year's parade will be staged over two days, with the number of participants reduced by nearly 75 percent.
"All participants will be appropriately socially distanced during performances and be required to wear face coverings and additional personal protective equipment depending on their role," stated the company, adding that the traditional 2.5-mile parade route will not be a part of this year's event.
The famed holiday parade started in 1924 and has been televised nationally on NBC since 1953.
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