Canberrans are dashing to have their photo with Santa this year now lockdowns are done, with higher than usual numbers booking their annual happy snaps.
The yearly yuletide trip to the shopping centre to have a photo with the jolly red man is a beloved ritual for families across the globe.
However, the treasured tradition looked in doubt in the ACT this year as lockdowns dragged on.
But like a beacon in the dark, Saint Nick is back and Canberrans are on the edge of their seats to tell him their Christmas wish list (at a COVID-safe distance).
Canberra Centre general manager Gary Stewart says booking numbers are up.
“As restrictions ease, we are so pleased to see our community as excited to meet Santa as we are, with booking requests up from last year’s numbers,” he says.
“We encourage our community to get in fast and book their time with Santa as spots are selling out fast.”
The centre introduced COVID safety measures in 2020, including replacing queues with bookings, sanitiser and elves on hand to clean the workshop after every guest.
The photos are even being taken in landscape instead of the usual portrait, to fit everyone in at a safe distance.
“[We’re] ensuring local families can still enjoy a magical moment with Santa while safeguarding our community’s health and wellbeing,” Mr Stewart says.
You can book your Santa Photo at the Canberra Centre online until 24 December.
Busy as always, Santa is also returning for family photos to Westfield Shopping Centres in Woden and Belconnen.
They’re also taking extra steps to make sure the experience is both magical and safe.
“We’re delighted to welcome Santa back,” the Scentre Group’s Lillian Fadel says.
“This year, we are working to ensure there will be more Christmas cheer than ever before.”
Both centres offer a sensory-friendly Santa environment for those who may have difficultly with the rowdy crowds, loud noises and flashing lights.