News & Opinion | November 29, 2021 12:30 pm

There’s a Santa Supply-Chain Shortage This Year

This might actually be the year without a Santa Claus

An empty red velvet Santa chair and red velvet bag
Santas are in high demand and short supply this year.
Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

You may have heard that Christmas is already under siege this year by the threat of an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a lingering supply-chain shortage like we’re all living in some kind of real-life Rankin & Bass Christmas special. Now, the plot of this holiday fever dream has thickened with yet another threat to Christmas: a Santa shortage.

According to the Washington Post, this might actually be the year without a Santa Claus, with Santa actors hired for malls and holiday parties in short supply and high demand. has reportedly seen a 121 percent increase in people seeking Santas or Mrs. Clauses this year compared to 2019, perhaps a sign that those who put their Christmas plans on hold due to the pandemic last year are trying to make up for lost time by spreading a little extra Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough St. Nicks for the job.

Part of the Santa dearth may be related to the nationwide worker shortage that’s affected multiple industries this year, though the Post says that low pay isn’t to blame, with Santas raking in a median rate of $30 per hour. (More experienced Santas can charge $150 an hour or more.) Rather, it seems many Santas have chosen to sit this year out over pandemic-related health concerns. As the Post points out, actors who play Santa tend to be at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to certain physical factors that are key to maintaining the Santa aesthetic, including advanced age and that “bowl full of jelly” physique. Between age and a high BMI, many Santas are at risk of potential co-morbidities that could make bringing joy to young children a risky endeavor this year. Not to mention, the job itself isn’t exactly the most sanitary, with the Santa job description typically involving close contact with strange, grubby, unvaccinated children in crowded malls and parties.

“I’ve had all my shots and all my vaccinations, and I watch myself very closely,” Tim Connaghan, a “National Santa” known for playing St. Nick in major parades and Toys for Tots appearances, told the Post. “But I want to remain cautious, you know, and I’m also encouraging other Santas to do the same.” For some, staying cautious means sitting this season out, which Connaghan estimates close to 20 percent of Santas have chosen to do this year.

But the Santa shortage is also linked to even more grim news. According to the Post, the Santa community has endured significant loss since the beginning of the pandemic. “Several hundred Santas and Mrs. Clauses, over the last 18 months, have passed away, and it’s just a tragedy,” founder Mitch Allen told the Post, though he added that some of those deaths may have been due to other causes.

Essentially, everything is still sad and weird, and we’re all living in what sounds like the plot to one of those horrifying claymation Christmas movies where Santa is sick and dying and Christmas is in jeopardy, except that it’s real life and there’s no band of mistfit toys or whatever to save us. Merry Christmas!