The Symbols of Christmas, Dec 10th: Mall Santas. In many families, getting a picture taken with a shopping mall Santa is a key part of Christmas. I have friends who have an entire wall devoted to years’ worth of pictures of growing boys sitting (and crying) on Santa’s lap. The first mall Santas appeared in the late 19th century. The first photos appeared in Seattle in 1944, when an enterprising photojournalist used his professional camera to take pics which he sold to parents. He made $10,000 in the first month. Not long after, other malls caught on, with this picture coming from the Montreal Eaton’s Store in 1946
This year, the tradition has taken on a new twist. Many parents are nervous about going to the mall with the kids, so Santas for-hire have been in high demand for private parties and home visits. This has actually led to a Santa shortage, according to agencies who “rent” Santas. Part of the shortage comes from the risk faced by elderly men getting close to unvaccinated kids. But the other problem is that there are more homes than there are malls, so there’s more demand than ever. Who would have ever thought we would have a Santa supply chain problem?