Santa Claus to make an appearance in Downtown South Bend

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. – Santa Claus is coming to South Bend on Dec. 4 to kick off Downtown for the Holidays at the Gridiron at 5 p.m. 

Downtown South Bend is gearing up for the holiday season, with Santa Claus making his first appearance at the Gridiron, but the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will have some restrictions. 

The event will continue to have live entertainment, photo opportunities, and a Santa writing station, but capacity is limited, and meeting Santa will not be the same. 

 “Even though everything is different this year, that Santa is still around, it may not look like the same experience, but we’re still bringing holiday cheer and he’s still listening to what they want for Christmas and keeping his naughty and nice list even though all the other situations, we’re going through,” said Kylie Carter, the Director of Marketing and events for Downtown South Bend.

With a capacity limited to only 150 people, the event will be live-streamed here starting at 5 p.m.. Visitors can start meeting with Santa after the lighting ceremony. 

“We’re putting Santa behind plexiglass this year, So we’re not having kids sit on his lap, he’s going to be in his red house by the chocolate café and sitting in his chair and we’ll have plexiglass. So he’s not wearing a mask because of the glass, but you can still talk to him, get your picture with him through the glass,” Carter said. 

To avoid people congregating in line, Santa visits will be done through reservations which people can make online here.

It’s no secret that the holidays will be different this year and that can be tough for little ones to grasp. So, what conversation should parents have with their kids going into the holiday season?

John Petersen a clinical psychologist at Family Psychology of South Bend said it’s a direct one and to focus on tradition, rituals, and relationships.

“You can just sit down and say I’d like to have a conversation about Christmas, and things that we expect will be similar and things we expect may be different. And you know children can certainly anticipate some of this for themselves and parents can just ask them what are your thoughts about that,” Petersen said.

With so many changes this holiday season, kids may feel confused or even lost as to why they cannot do certain traditions like hug Santa or even visit grandma. Petersen said it is important for parents to listen to their kids and not rush into fixing it. Instead, ask “How can I help?” or "Do you have any ideas of what we can do instead?” He advises parents to steer away from materialistic items or making things too perfect. Instead, focus on the traditions you can do.

“What traditions are we going to hold to, or, can we hold to and look forward to. And those that we can’t, do we want to create something new. It can be a tradition in the first year, but it can be a ritual. A ritualized gratitude, a ritualized giving, a ritualized prayer, or a ritualized time of marking this holiday season,” Petersen said.

Something else to keep in mind, Petersen said to plan and try and give the holiday season some structure this year. 

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