CNN reports that demand for Santas, whether it be at parties, parades, or store events, has skyrocketed in the lead-up to Christmas this year. Companies such as Hire Santa, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, have been unable to meet demand because the number of trained Santas has dramatically reduced from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's a huge demand," said Hire Santa founder and head elf Mitch Allen. "We've been sold out on weekends for over a month, which is unusual. Usually, we get sold out after Thanksgiving." He added that one of the main reasons for the shortage could be COVID-19 concerns, especially with the arrival of the Omicron variant. As a result of the shortage, some retailers have been forced to ask Santas to limit their hours or work substantially more hours.
Allen told Yahoo! that Hire Santa also “lost a tremendous number of Santas over the last 18 months.” He said that at least 335 of the Santas the company have hired in the past died in 2021, and COVID-19 was the leading cause of death. "As you can imagine, our Santa Claus entertainers are susceptible to a negative outcome if they catch COVID-19," he added, stressing that the majority of the company's Santas are older and possibly overweight men.
Speaking with CNN, Susen Mesco said that there’s been a big decline in enrollment at her professional Santa school in Denver. “The bookings are overwhelming this year. I'm getting calls for a Santa about every eight minutes," she added. "But it's not all bad news. It also means that people are emerging from the other side of the pandemic. Now that we've all had two years to figure out and adjust to the pandemic, more people want to be together."
Due to the pandemic, a lot of potential Santa trainees have also lost interest since “nobody wanted to travel” for the classes. Santa hopefuls are expected to complete 180 hours of lessons, which include classes on everything from sign language to how to get their beards right. "Some of them just said, 'I'll retire now,'" she said. "I've had 15 Santas drop off their Santa suit and say, 'Find a good home for it.'"