The coronavirus pandemic is impacting yet another holiday season in New Jersey, but you still have the opportunity to secure the traditional photos with Santa.

Saint Nick is already in place at malls and shopping centers throughout the Garden State. COVID-related restrictions are a bit looser in 2021 compared to last year, but families will still have the option to be as safe as possible.

Santa Claus at Freehold Raceway Mall is vaccinated against COVID-19. Similar to last year, Santa HQ has a bench in front of the big man in red, where kids can sit if families desire a socially distanced shot. A photo on Santa's lap, the go-to before COVID-19 took hold of New Jersey, is an option as well.

"It's really up to the families as to what their comfort level is," said Debra Countey, senior manager of marketing for Freehold Raceway Mall.

Like many spots last year, Monmouth Mall in Eatontown was not permitting photos on Santa's lap. And in 2020, both the guests and Santa had to be masked during the photo session. But in 2021, face coverings are optional (Santa isn't wearing one unless a family makes a request), and the classic lap photo is available.

"It's nice to have the Christmas season back again," said Janice Mannino, a member of Monmouth Mall's management team.

Once again in 2021, Bridgewater Commons is keeping all shots socially distanced. But this year, masks aren't required.

Malls are strongly encouraging guests to make reservations for photo sessions. Bridgewater Commons and many locations, though, are permitting walk-up guests this year.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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