Dear Ms Smartphone: My husband is serving overseas and suggested he would dress up as Santa for a video-chat. We have two older girls and a boy, ages 10, 8, and 2. He wants to find out what gifts they want and thinks it will be fun. I am concerned that the kids will recognize his voice and find it fake. Kaycee,San Rafael
It probably does not matter as long as the occasion is done with parental love and caring. You can set up a plate of virtual cookies for Santa. The full effect may depend on how well your husband can act and how realistic the background seems (think North Pole, snow and elves). Perhaps your husband can get a friend to help him set up the chat, or sub-in as the Santa?
Going to a shopping mall and having kid’s sit on a stranger’s lap always seemed odd to me. My own children only did this once or twice, yet it led to a ‘mall shopped’ photo that became a family memento.
That said, having a video conversation with Santa also strikes me as odd. Paying a stranger with white hair and a beard to have a “fake” conversation with children? But, it is a thriving business. According to a story in the Wall St. Journal, a Denver based company, “Talk to Santa” employs more than 300 Santas, costs $34.95, and will deliver more than 10,000 videos this season. The business had only 80 Santas when they launched 5 years ago. Here are links to more sites.
Santas are Everywhere!
We should not forget the historical roots. In 1841 a “life-sized Santa” was advertised by a Philadelphia store and it was a crowd pleaser. Later, the Salvation Army began to dress up unemployed men to solicit holiday donations, and then the movies helped popularize Santa, kids, and holiday pictures.
What are the advantages of chatting with a video Santa? No more squirming kids having a boring time waiting in line, fewer chances of spreading or catching a winter cold, and a high level of personalization (parents fill out a questionnaire in advance).
What are the disadvantages of the video chat? Not learning to wait your turn, not learning to handle boredom in a snaking line, not sharing larger cultural values with strangers, and an over-customized ‘just for me’ experience.