For many kids, the Christmas season means a visit to the mall Santa Claus. It's a chance to sit on the old man's lap and spill your guts about all of the goodies you want to see under the Christmas tree and why you feel you deserve it all.

The annual trek to center court, which has been transformed into some sort of cotton ball replica of the North Pole complete with camera-toting elves hawking photo packages, calendars, and coffee mugs, includes the obligatory picture with Santa. Say cheese!

Now, don't doddle. There is a line halfway out to Macy's of kids donned in gay apparel just waiting for their 30 seconds of lap time with Santa. Don't forget to ask for the latest video game – and no bawling like last year, or we'll have to wait in line again for another picture.

But this year is different. The children have been taught to fear Santa. After all, he might be contagious. And the last thing Santa wants is a positive swab test so close to Christmas. So the kids and Claus keep their distance.

If there is a Santa at the mall this year, you might need an appointment to see him. Santa may be hidden behind a surgical mask or protected by a shield of plexiglass. It's enough to make the jolly old elf long for the smell of another poopy diaper or tug of the whiskers for authentication.

Fear of the COVID-19 virus means fewer shoppers and thus fewer tikes for Santa to see. Christmas is in many ways different this year due to circumstances beyond our control. Just glance into the lonely eyes of the mall Santa, peering from behind the plexiglass wall to know that it is true.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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