The festive spirit is alive and kicking as Jayne, baby Marama, and Sam visit Westfield’s Santa.
The festive spirit is alive and kicking as Jayne, baby Marama, and Sam visit Westfield’s Santa.

SocietyNovember 29, 2021

Festive family photos look like this now

The festive spirit is alive and kicking as Jayne, baby Marama, and Sam visit Westfield’s Santa.
The festive spirit is alive and kicking as Jayne, baby Marama, and Sam visit Westfield’s Santa.

How a simple snap with Santa has changed in the age of Covid-19.

Jayne was looking forward to her appointment with Santa for days. She’s got a newborn at home, a cherished daughter called Marama, and like most new mums is stuck adhering to her baby’s strict nap schedule.

A snap with Santa was an excuse for an excursion. “It was the highlight of my day,” she says, “because we don’t leave the house.”

She’d booked the photo, at Westfield St Lukes, days in advance through the mall’s online booking portal. She and her husband Sam aren’t particularly Christmas minded, and won’t put their tree up until December 1.

But, with a 10-month-old in the house, they felt like a festive photo was something they should have in the family album, an image they could enjoy and look back on for years to come.

“We’re not normally into all this festive stuff,” says Jayne, who requested her last name not be used in this story. “But we thought, ‘Well, when you’ve got kids, you’ve got to start doing these things … it’s the start of a new tradition.'”

She knew there’d be rules in place because of Tāmaki Makaurau’s Covid-19 restrictions. Westfield’s website has a full list of strict regulations for those wanting to visit Santa at the mall this year, including scanning, sanitising and social distancing.

“No-one may touch Santa at anytime,” is on the list. So is, “Only 1 bubble is let onto on the Santa set at any one time.”


Westfield’s rules for all Santa visitors.

“Obviously we knew there were going to be some rules,” Jayne told The Spinoff. But there wasn’t one she hadn’t seen: masks stayed put. “I didn’t realise you had to keep your mask on for the picture,” she says. So she, Sam and Marama arrived, sat on sanitised stools, and a photographer dressed as an elf took their picture.

The hilarious results are a true marker of the Covid era. Santa, on the left, is waving. Sam and Jayne are seated several metres away, their hair uncut and unkempt after three months of lockdowns, black masks firmly covering their faces.

Baby Marama stares at the camera, wearing the expression of someone wondering where she is, and what the heck is going on.

Santa with Jayne, Marama and Sam. Image: Westfield

Immortalised in framed photos, cards and fridge magnets in the photo package Jayne purchased, she’s unsure what she’s going to do with them. “I don’t know if I’ll be sending them to my friends,” she says. “It’s kind of funny in a really dark way.”

It’s a sign that Christmas photo experiences in the age of Covid-19 have changed. Jolly cuddles with Santa are out, friendly jiggles on Saint Nick’s knee is a no-no, swapping Christmas wish lists at close contact is unadvisable. Jayne says the only words they exchanged with Santa were a hearty “Merry Christmas” after their photo was taken.

At Smith & Caugheys, on Queen Street, a sheet of perspex separates Santa and their guests. “Please be assured this is barely noticeable in your keepsake photo,” the department store avers, in the midst of a lengthy list of online rules. 

That isn’t stopping people getting their Santa photos taken. Many of Westfield St Lukes’ and Smith & Caugheys’ five-minute slots were booked out over the past weekend, indicating many families are keen to to get their own pandemic Christmas portraits.

Just a few days on, Jayne is already laughing about her experience, one so unlike her and Sam’s Santa visits when they were kids. She didn’t think the photo would be so dystopian, resembling a scene from The Handmaids Tale’s Christmas Special.

But now she realises it’s exactly what they wanted: something to look back on.

It’s a marker of time just not a good one.

“I hope Marama can look back on it and go, ‘Wow, Mum and Dad, that was weird. I’m so glad society got its shit together and now we don’t do that anymore.'”

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox