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Consider the word lap – noun, verb, friend. It’s no coincidence that lap spelled backwards is pal. Think about it. Lap is one of the most helpful and versatile words in the English language.

Good fortune smiling upon you? Then you can live in the lap of luxury. Getting a bit flabby? Head to the pool and swim some laps. Feeling jubilant? Take a victory lap.

Maybe you’ve had a tough day. Forget about it. Kick back and watch the ocean waves lap against the white-sand beach of Maui’s Kapalua Bay. Virus who?

Or maybe you simply have too many problems to count? No problem! Just dump all those worries into someone else’s lap and call it a day.

Yes indeed, our friend lap is here to save the day.

A Christmas Story

Say it ain't so, Santa! This year The Big Man has a no-lap policy.

Only there’s one problem even a lap can’t solve. That’s when a kid needs to crawl into one, especially one as comforting and comfy as Santa’s – and can’t. Ralphie asking Santa in A Christmas Story for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle is the least of his concerns today.

Forget about shooting your eye out, Ralphie, the real issue this year is there’s no Santa lap to snuggle into. 

That’s literally where we stand during our Santa Lap Crisis in The Year of Living Dangerously.

With Christmas arriving amidst a pandemic that has sickened more than 15 million Americans and counting, sitting on Santa’s lap is just not happening. Worrying if you’ve made the Naughty or Nice list is secondary if you can’t even whisper a gift list into The Big Man's ear.

Son of a Blitzen, could this year get any worse?

Now kids visit Santa while he sits in a giant snow globe, or behind a large frame of Plexiglas, or in a gift box designed to keep excited kids at a safe distance.

At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, children need an appointment to visit Santa. Once there, jolly old St. Nicholas interacts with them from behind the window of a specially built cabin. Over at your local Bass Pro Shop they’re erecting Magic Santa Shields to separate Santa from his fans. Elves are on the ready as part of Santa’s Sanitation Squad. Honest.

Forget the milk and cookies, kids, this year Santa could use more disinfecting wipes and Purell.

For the first time since 1861, Santa won’t appear in person at Macy’s. Instead, Santa will be available for interactive online visits. Not exactly a Hallmark movie moment.

And it’s not only kids who are worried. Let’s face it, Santa checks almost all the high-risk health boxes: elderly, smoker, overweight. OK, maybe that’s harsh, but having a little round belly that shakes when you laugh like a bowl full of jelly is cause for concern. Chubby and plump fills out your Santa suit nicely but it’s an invitation for trouble during a pandemic.

So here we are, social distancing from St. Nick, with no lap to help us out.

Somehow we will adjust. After all, we’re lucky. It may not seem like it, but even through Plexiglas and giant snow globes and sanitized online visits, we still have Santa, and all that he promises.

The magic of Christmas endures, even while wearing a mask and practicing an abundance of caution. Besides, next year Santa’s lap will be well rested and extra comfy. 

So be good – and safe – for goodness sake.

Miracle on 34th Street

The magic of Santa endures, no matter the distance, as "The Miracle on 34th Street" illustrates. 

We Are Santa by Ron Cooper

We Are Santa by Ron Cooper

For more on Santa Clause and the many people who make him possible, check out the new book, We Are Santa by award-winning photographer Ron Cooper.

We Are Santa ($22.95) offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who slip into the red suit to spread Christmas cheer. This beautifully curated collection of 54 professional Santas (and one Mrs. Claus) from across the country includes before and after portraits, behind-the-scenes stories of custom made costumes and specialized training, and surprising anecdotes of on-the-job encounters. 

From a third-generation Kris Kringle to an Orthodox Jew who has been playing Santa for fifty years to a 19-year-old who first donned a red hat at age 3, Cooper’s portraits are a testament to the holiday spirit. When Santa Mike, a Navy veteran and aircraft mechanic, meets a six-year-old girl with a prosthetic hand just like his own, he says, “Her eyes got big, and she threw her arms around my neck. It was the highlight of my season. That’s why I’m Santa.”

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