Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Macy's has announced that stores will be canceling in-person visits with Santa Claus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, stores will be hosting an interactive virtual experience called "Macy's Santaland at Home," the company said. Macy's has been hosting visits with Santa in New York since 1861.
Beginning after Thanksgiving and through Christmas Eve, the online site at macys.com/Santaland will feature interactive games with elves, a chance to upload a Christmas wishlist and a video selfie with Santa.
"For many, visiting Santa at Macy's has become a long-standing highlight of the holiday season," Susan Tercero, Macy's spokeswoman said in a statement. "Macy's is delighted to have found a way to ensure even more families can enjoy this treasured experience safely during this festive time of the year."
Macy's will also go virtual with other holiday events in other cities such as the Dickens Village and Christmas Light Show in Philadelphia, which will also be available online, the company said.
Santa will also beaming appearances on the store's social media accounts.
The pandemic is also to blame for Macy's decision to scale back the department store's annual Thanksgiving Parade. The parade, broadcast on television, will be slashed to 25% of its normal size and filmed over two days as floats, balloons and musicians stay on the streets surrounding Herald Square. Santa will still appear at the end of the Macy's parade, the company told CBS.
Department stores across the country have readjusted holiday hours and canceled Thanksgiving Day sales to help slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against attending crowded shopping centers during the holidays