Coast families keep ‘Picture with Santa’ tradition alive with COVID-19 safety protocols in place

Coast families keep ‘Picture with Santa’ tradition alive with COVID-19 safety protocols in place

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - In a tough year when many public traditions have come to a halt because of COVID-19, there’s one that has survived with all the safety protocols in place, of course.

That all-important picture with Santa has even taken on a special meaning for many Gulf Coast families, that includes a group of teenage boys who have been around each other since fourth grade.

“We started a group with the moms taking the boys out,” said Chantal Krause, who helped start the group. “So, we call it Boys Night Out. So, moms get together and bring the sons so we can have a way to connect with them.”

This is a moment they and their moms have been waiting for. Stopping this herd of St. Martin seniors from getting a picture with Santa, would be next to impossible.

It’s their fifth annual ‘Picture with Santa.’

“This year, especially,” Krause said. “Like, we know the boys are going to go off in life and do great things, but we especially needed this to happen this year.”

It’s a milestone year for other families as well.

“This year, especially being a new mom, I was not only worried about the pandemic, but like for his first Christmas,” said Shabria Boland. “I’ve always enjoyed Christmas as a child and I wanted to make sure - it was my mission as a mother - to make sure he had a great Christmas, whether he remembers it or not.”

It was a needed break for Heather Tyson and her family as well.

“It’s just been a rough year,” said Tyson. “And, a lot has been going on and the excitement of Santa and coming and having pictures done on a year that’s been so crazy is just fun for us.”

It’s an experience passed down by older siblings as well.

Mercedes Gariti is also sharing the moment with her sister, mother and little brother.

“My brother, he’d always tell me he wanted to see Santa, and, with COVID, we really weren’t sure if that was an option,” said Gariti. “And we really wanted to make that happen for him.”

And Santa has this universal gift for everyone.

“Hope and security for the following year,” said Santa.

He has this prediction: “Next year is going to be even better than last year. It’s going to get better.”

But what about gifts for Santa?

“A mask so he wouldn’t get sick,” said Alivea Tyson.

Boland added “Peace of mind and good health throughout everything,”

“If I could, I’d give him a hug for sure,” Mercedes said. “Because I’m sure he needs it.”

Santa will be available for pictures every day through Christmas Eve at Edgewater Mall.

Times are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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