Santa at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City on November 28, 2019 (AP Photo / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, file)

NEW YORK (AP) – Santa will not greet children or ask them what they want for Christmas this year at famous Macy’s store in New York City due to the pandemic, disrupting a holiday tradition that goes back at 160 years old.

More than a quarter of a million children flock to New York’s Macy’s store each year, the company said, something risky in times of coronavirus. To seat the little ones on the lap of the iconic white-bearded old man, people must walk through a spacious apartment decorated with Christmas trees, toy trains, and elves in green uniforms.

Macy’s stores in Chicago and San Francisco won’t have Santa Claus either, but the character will make an appearance at the end of the company’s parade on Thanksgiving Day.

Due to the coronavirus, department stores are restructuring their sales areas and rethinking their strategy, which until now consisted of welcoming as many people as possible. Walmart, for example, is extending its “Black Friday” sales day to four weeks instead of just one day.

But Macy’s decision differs from that of the big malls, which decided to allow children to visit Santa Claus, but staying six meters away.

Macy’s has used Santa Claus to draw crowds to his New York store since the 1860s, so much so that he used to promote himself as “The House of Santa Claus” and in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street “(1947) a girl he meets the real Santa Claus precisely in this store.

Still, Macy’s will offer part of the experience accompanying Santa Claus at the end of November, but online. There will be a portal where families can play games, view photos of the toy workshop and take a photo with Santa Claus.

“Moving the experience to a virtual platform will bring the magic of Santa Claus to children of all ages this year,” Macy’s said in a statement.

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