There isn't enough jolly to go around.

As New Jersey enjoys its first holiday season in three years that's not overshadowed by COVID-19, demand for appearances by Santa Claus is way up. But the roster of quality Santas hasn't yet bounced back from the pandemic.

New Jersey malls and other locations that would typically have season-long Santa appearances are likely staffed, because they complete their bookings early in the year. The shortage is impacting the companies, organizations and individual consumers who may have just begun trying to book a Santa for a day or two this holiday season.

"If you wanted to have a Santa to come this year on a weekend, we're going to tell you we don't have any availability at all," said Mitch Allen, founder and "head elf" at Hire Santa. "Weekdays, we still have availability in New Jersey and surrounding areas, but even that is getting very, very tight."

Allen said his company, which hosts a long roster of real-beard Saint Nicks, gets about 20 requests for Santa for every one Santa that reaches out to them for a booking.

"If you're hunting for a Santa in New Jersey to come to your home or office, this late in the game ... it's going to be hard to find one right now," Allen said. "And if you do find one, the quality may not be as good as you had hoped."

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A number of professional Santas were grounded by the COVID threat, either due to their own concerns or the fact that their typical clients were skipping the tradition.

Allen's company has been trying to find new Santa Clauses throughout the country to add to their database. This past year, Hire Santa traveled to "Santa conventions, schools, and lunches" to increase their Kringle inventory.

Quality professional Santas range in age from 30s to 80s, Allen said. Most of them are nearing retirement age.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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