In years past, visiting Santa was a little different.
Santa often has to sit behind a table instead of welcoming children on his lap — wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But in the U.S., things are starting to return to how they were before the pandemic.
A website that allows retailers to pre-order Santa appearances said demand was up 30 percent compared to last year.
But it’s not without its challenges, as the company has lost about 15% of its workforce to retirement or death since the pandemic began.
Santas across the country are free to wear masks if they choose — but in many places, it’s no longer mandatory.
However, there are exceptions. A table will continue to separate Santa from the awed visitors at Macy’s world-renowned flagship store in New York.
According to Mitch Allen, founder of HireSanta.com, his performers will earn as much as $12,000 (£10,000) during the festival.
His agency is also meeting demands for more inclusive Santas — including female, black, deaf or Spanish-speaking performers.
Melissa Rickard, 48, who made her debut in her early 20s, said: “I haven’t been beaten by a child, or by a parent, with one exception.
“In a way, having a kid who can’t tell me I’m a woman is the ultimate compliment because it means I’m doing Santa justice. It pissed off my husband.”
Ms Rickard charges $175 (£145) an hour – and once she pays for her fuel, she donates the rest to charity.
This Christmas, millions of children around the world will be delighted to meet Santa Claus – and the feeling will be mutual.
“I can’t even explain how excited we are to see everyone’s smiles in all locations this season without anything to hide those beautiful faces,” said Chris Landtroop of Santa agency Cherry Hill Programs.