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COVID Christmas: Bay Area Families Safely Visit Santa Amid Pandemic

WOODSIDE (KPIX 5) -- While visiting Santa had a new twist this holiday season due to the pandemic, the tradition endured for many Bay Area families.

At Filoli Garden in Woodside, Santa Claus was masked, distanced, and outdoors, so children like Zoe Ying have to speak up.

When asked what she asked Santa for, Zoe said, "A watch and a fairy."

Visits to Santa look and sound different this year.

Socially-Distant Santa
A family visits Santa Claus at the Filoli Gardens in Woodside. (CBS)

"At least every visit I get at least one child, maybe out of ten, who says they want to an end to the COVID virus," said Santa told KPIX 5.

James and Caitlin Rozzi say seeing the big guy is exactly what their sons C.J. and Jack needed.

"I want a dog named Rocket," said 3-year-old Jack.

"A scooter that trails smoke behind it," added 5-year-old C.J.

"For our kids, because they're so little, having as much joy as possible during the holiday season is important because this year has been extra hard for little kids," explained Caitlin Rozzi.

Filoli changed its Santa set-up from indoors to outdoors and built a platform in its 16-acre garden.

Events and programs director Brittany Jones says fire pits and decorations add comfort and joy.

"This is a nice piece of hope for people in these kind of weird times right now," Jones said.

Terena Scott calls the outdoor visit perfect for her daughter who's in a wheelchair.

"We're weren't going to bring her anywhere because she's so fragile but we have to take part in the holiday and this felt like a good safe way to do it," Scott said.

And it's less scary for Polina Ying's younger daughter Tessa.

"For little kids, I feel like it's better, 'cause they're not forced to sit on Santa's lap," Ying chuckled.

Santa added, "And that actually makes it easier for everyone else, there's much less crying, much less trauma, much, much nicer."

Besides in-person visits, in some places, Santa is also coming to town virtually.

Mitch Allen is Head Elf with His Texas-based business brings Santa to kids across the country. Some of the visits are on-site behind plexiglass, while other visits take place online.

"It's 10 to 20 times the number of virtual visits this year, compared to last year," Allen said.

He said many parents are purchasing Santa sessions on live videoconferencing or recorded video so they can stay sheltered at home and also share information about their kids.

"It's almost an even more magical experience," Allen said. "Santa can tell then what they're doing well in, what they need encouragement on."

In-person or online, not even a global pandemic can stop jolly old St. Nick from working his magic this year.

"Fingers crossed that we're back to sitting next to him next year," said James Rozzi.

At Filoli, the Santa visit comes with the price of admission to the Garden. Meanwhile, the recorded or virtual visits start at $39.

The Santa at Filoli also does virtual visits through

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