Valeria Melia, a Toronto mother of two, has quarantined “Sugarpuff”, her Elf of the Shelf doll, seen in an undated handout photo, for 14 days. While some families don’t want pandemic reminders to cloud Christmas within their own homes, others are finding whimsical ways to incorporate COVID-related elements into their regular rituals. (Photo by Valeria Melia)

Valeria Melia, a Toronto mother of two, has quarantined “Sugarpuff”, her Elf of the Shelf doll, seen in an undated handout photo, for 14 days. While some families don’t want pandemic reminders to cloud Christmas within their own homes, others are finding whimsical ways to incorporate COVID-related elements into their regular rituals. (Photo by Valeria Melia)

Sanitizing Santa, isolating elves: parents add pandemic themes to Christmas magic

Sanitizing Santa, isolating elves: parents add pandemic themes to Christmas magic

Valeria Melia felt a tug on her heartstrings when her daughter asked if the pandemic would force Santa Claus to cancel his visit to their Toronto home this year.

Seven-year-old Michela and her four-year-old brother Massimo had seen other holiday events nixed over the last nine months, and their mother wanted to make sure they knew Christmas was still on the table.

So Melia turned to her computer, typing up a letter from Santa that would ensure her children he was safe and on his way.

“I wanted to tell them Santa’s been given the all-clear to fly, saying ‘don’t worry, I’m still coming,’” Melia said.

“Even before Christmas, (Michela) would say things like: ‘I can’t wait until this virus is over so I can go hug my friends again.’ So when she asked about Christmas, it was heartbreaking.”

Melia’s children are among many Canadian kids who will experience the holidays differently this year as public health officials urge us to modify our traditions.

While some families don’t want pandemic reminders to cloud Christmas within their own homes, others are finding whimsical ways to incorporate COVID-related elements into their rituals.

London, Ont., mom Ursula Goncalves is leaving hand sanitizer for Santa this year, placing a bottle next to the milk and cookies her eight-year-old daughter Halina and six-year-old son Daniel usually set out for the clandestine gift-giver.

“I thought it would be kinda cute, considering the year we’re having,” Goncalves said. “It was my idea, but the kids actually did wonder about Santa’s safety, asking if he was still coming.”

Dr. Todd Cunningham, a child psychology expert at the University of Toronto, says adding pandemic themes to our merry festivities can be helpful by reinforcing messages kids have been hearing for months.

“We’ve talked often about ways of keeping ourselves safe,” he said. “So it would make sense to them in terms of our current context to (incorporate) those things.”

It also isn’t surprising some kids are expressingconcern for Santa’s safety, Cunningham added, especially if they understand his advanced age might make him more susceptible to the virus.

So it’s a good thing Santa is a magical being, as some of Canada’s top doctors have clarified.

B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry said recently Kris Kringle is likely immune to COVID-19, while Prince Edward Island’s Dr. Heather Morrison announced that Santa and Mrs. Claus had been granted essential worker status along with their elves and reindeer.

Sheri Madigan, a child development researcher at the University of Calgary, says introducing COVID safety elements may help calm worried youngsters, and further their understanding of the virus.

“A lot of these concepts around COVID are hard to grasp because it’s this germ they can’t see,” she said. “So Santa coming presents an opportunity to say: ‘we’re leaving sanitizer so he can wash his hands, and that keeps another family safe.’”

Melia won’t be doling out the Purell for Santa, but she did purchase an Elf on the Shelf for the first time, adding a pandemic twist by sealing it in a glass jar to “quarantine” for 14 days. Goncalves did the same, sequestering her family’s elf for one week.

The mischievous doll is meant to be a scout for Santa, typically arriving from the North Pole a month before Christmas. Parents place the elf in quirky tableaus each night for kids to spot in the morning.

While the elf isolation is a charming reminder of pandemic precautions, Melia admitted that keeping Sugarpuff in a jar for two weeks serves another purpose.

“This is gonna sound terrible,” she said with a laugh, “but it’s nice to not have to figure out what to do with it for 14 days.”

Christmas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer city council gave initial approval for more mixed-use developments in Riverside Light Industrial Park. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More industrial landowners in Red Deer are pursuing mixed-use zoning

A third of Riverside Light could become a commercial/industrial district

Central Alberta man facing second-degree murder in connection with December death.
Advocate file photo
Central Alberta man facing second-degree murder in connection with December death

Maskwacis RCMP said female found dead in Ermineskin Cree Nation residence last December

Red Deer College has been working towards obtaining university status for a couple of years. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer College’s university status back in question

Red Deer College should be worried that its university dreams could be… Continue reading

The Mountain Cree Traditional Band headquarters in Mirror, Alta. has been the target of theft and vandalism. (Photo submitted)
Vandals strike: Artifacts worth $1M gone from central Alberta museum

AWNTB says not enough been done to deter crime in Mirror, Alta.

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) loses the basketball as he tries to drive around Dallas Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein (33) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Lowry leads the way as Raptors down the Mavericks for their third straight win

Lowry leads the way as Raptors down the Mavericks for their third straight win

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and assist paces Flames to 5-2 victory over Canucks

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and assist paces Flames to 5-2 victory over Canucks

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Tory MP Sloan accuses party of hypocrisy over efforts to have him expelled

Tory MP Sloan accuses party of hypocrisy over efforts to have him expelled

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 file photo Britain's Andy Murray reacts during a press conference following his first round loss to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Former world number one Murray's participation at the upcoming Australian Open is in doubt after the Briton tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
Australian Open arrivals hit by 3 COVID-19 positive tests

Australian Open arrivals hit by 3 COVID-19 positive tests

Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) scores on an empty net and takes a hit from Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk (4) during third period of action in Toronto on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Toronto Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Roman Sadovsky wins the Challenge, his only event of the figure skating season

Roman Sadovsky wins the Challenge, his only event of the figure skating season

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, speaks with International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
IIHF pulls hockey worlds from Belarus, seeks new host

IIHF pulls hockey worlds from Belarus, seeks new host

Most Read