It’s a visit with Santa Claus unlike any your child has experienced: live, straight from the North Pole’s own media center, with the all-encompassing sights and sounds.
All you need is a computer or phone with video capabilities, and good little boys and girls can interact with Santa in real time and find a merry, magical experience that can be shared with grandparents, parents deployed with the military or other family and friends almost anywhere in the world.
Blount County professional Santa Claus Joe Moore, is one of the Santas participating in the program and is an enthusiastic proponent of this new, virtual visit via JingleRing, powered by Zuhoo.
“This thing is so cool! I’ve never seen such a well-put-together program,” he said. “This is not a simple Zoom call. We’ve got reindeer cams, elves that will be talking to the kids, elves that will be singing and dancing.”
KIDZ BOP, which produces best-selling children’s albums, has created a Christmas song for Zuhoo, as well. “And all of this is before the kids even meet with Santa! It’s about a 15- to 20-minute experience that the kids are never going to forget,” Moore said.
How it works
The visit with Santa is fully customizable at no additional cost, such as a Santa who is Black, speaks Spanish, knows American Sign Language, or is trained to work with disabled children or adults, as Moore is. A faith-based option also is available and is another of Moore’s specialties. Up to three children are included at no additional charge, and more can be added to the visit for an extra fee. Pricing starts at $29.95 and can go up to $79.95 depending on the preferences. A visit with Mrs. Claus starts at $24.95.
While the children are being entertained by the pre-Santa-visit festivities, Zuhoo runs through several checkpoints with the family. “They check with the family to make sure their internet is on, their cameras are on, their audio is working,” Moore said. “So, they’re entertaining the kids and checking all this at the same time.”
Then comes the actual visit with Santa, which lasts from five to 10 minutes. “That’s actually more time than you’d normally get in a mall,” Moore said. Information gathered earlier from the parents is displayed on a “Dasher board.”
“It’s like a cue board for me,” Moore said. “I get to know so much about them. Not just what they want for Christmas, but also their names and ages, what their favorite gift was that they got last year, their elves if they have one, their pets, and so on. I have all this information on each and every one of the kids — also what they are doing great at home. We don’t have a naughty list! Instead, we talk about how they can help their parents more at home.
“When the kids come on, they are so blown away by the information I know on them that they are just dumbfounded. They get so excited, and when they hang up, it’s like, “I had the real one! He knows everything!’ And we can do this for up to five kids on a call.”
Up to four families besides the main family also may participate on the call. “If grandparents are in a completely different state, they can be on the visit,” Moore said. “Aunts, uncles, cousins, anyone who is important to you. And, if a parent is in the military and stationed overseas, they can join in.”
Moore said a 20% discount is offered for all military. “Zuhoo did 35 countries and all 50 states last year. It doesn’t matter where the parent is stationed, they can get in on this call with Santa and they can actively participate. They can talk to the kids at the same time I am. I spoke with many families in many nations last year, and every visit was as exciting for me as for the families.”
Families receive a copy of the video and photos to share with others after the visit, as well. Santa also will keep in touch during the following year with a birthday card for children.
To book a Santa visit with Moore, go to www.zuhoo.com/id and enter Jingle301 to get your preference of day and time. Other Santa options also are available. Visits are being booked through Dec. 25.
The next mall Santa
Moore said he foresees these virtual visits becoming the norm.
“This is the next mall Santa,” he said. “Mall Santas are disappearing. There’s a Santa shortage this year because we lost almost 700 Santas this year — 300 to 500 from COVID, and let’s face it, Santa is not in his 20s! A lot of them have a lot of medical issues. … On top of that, about another 15% of Santas hung up their suits this year, so it’s been a struggle for a lot of companies to get good Santa talent.”
This is his second year with the program, and he sees advantages for both the Santas and the children.
“We can talk to the kids, find out what’s going on in their lives, and the kids are more comfortable,” Moore said. “The disadvantage is that we don’t get the hugs and kisses, don’t get to see the awe in their eyes when they touch the beard and see that it’s real and think, ‘Wow, it’s the real Santa!’”