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Macy's cancels in-person Santa visits for holiday season

After almost 160 years of holiday traditions, Macy's Santa Claus won't be coming to town this year. Due to coronavirus risks, the flagship department store will move its annual Santa visits online in a new virtual experience. 

On a typical month in December, Macy's flagship store in New York City is filled with anxious parents and excited children, all waiting to speak with Santa Claus himself. Macy's Santaland, which includes a chance to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what you want for Christmas, is a time-honored tradition, which Macy's reports bring a quarter of a million people to its store every year. 

But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to plague the United States, the close contact of visiting Santa and his elves provides too much of a health risk to host. While Santa will not appear at Macy's New York, Chicago, or San Francisco Santalands, the department store does have a plan to ensure the "magic of Christmas" isn't canceled this year. The in-store experience will be replicated in a digital event, where children can interact with Santa and his elves through video. 

"At Macy's, the safety of our customers and colleagues is paramount," said Susan Tercero, Macy's vice president of branded entertainment, in a statement to CBS News. "To replicate the magical experience of visiting Macy's Santaland for children and their families, we will shift to a virtual engagement this year. 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 Macy's "Santaland at Home" virtual event is completely free and can be accessed from Friday, November 27 through Thursday, December 24. In addition to the in-store changes, Macy's has also announced a drastically scaled-back Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

"It will not be the same parade we're used to," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference announcing the change. "It will be a different kind of event. They're reinventing the event for this moment in history."

Santa Claus Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Santa Claus at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on November 28, 2019. Ralph Bavaro/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

The event will have 75% fewer participants, be stretched over two days, and not include performers under the age of 18. But rest assured, somethings will never change. In a statement to CBS News, a Macy's spokesperson confirmed that "Santa will, as is tradition, close out the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this November." 

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