It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas throughout the country, and while jingle bell time is usually a swell time, it may be difficult to get Santa Claus down Santa Claus Lane this year as the demand to see the holiday icon is reaching unprecedented levels.
After in-person visits with Santa were hard to come by in the first year of the pandemic, people still struggled to see Saint Nick last year as there weren't as many people available or they were hesitant to put on the red suit as COVID-19 was still a concern.
The virus isn't on the mind of as many people this year, but there's even more people interested in getting Santa to stop by for their holiday event; there's a 30% increase in demand compared to last year, and 125% increase over pre-pandemic levels, according to HireSanta.com, which has a nationwide database of thousands of Santa Clauses that can be booked for events.
"Everybody's going full blast," Mitch Allen, founder of HireSanta.com, told USA TODAY. "It's been sort of overwhelming in some ways."
If you're trying to get a Santa from Allen's company on a December weekend, you may be out of luck; he said weekends for hourly events are sold out in most markets, and they've had to turn down more business inquiries than ever before. It's gotten so busy, people have already started booking Santas for 2023 because of frustrations this year.
"Booking a Santa isn't getting on your phone and calling Uber. It's something you've got to do a little bit of planning for," Allen said. "There still is availability. If people want to have Santa, they can, but they need to have flexibility."
Randyl Wagner, who has donned the Santa suit around the metro Detroit area since 1981, had his first event of the year on Nov. 5 and has at least one event through Christmas Eve. But he's not complaining at all.
"I can't be more thankful to be that busy, and to be able to connect with that many families and children. I am really unfortunate," he said.
So you can't get a Santa. How do you become one?
The increased demand means there are over 2,000 available jobs for people, Allen said, and they aren't limited to just Santa – people want elves and Mrs. Claus too. There's also an increase for diverse Santas.
So if you're interested in becoming a Santa, Allen says he's hiring, and you could make some good money doing it. The qualifications?
"You got to have that love of Christmas," he said.
Howard Graham, who is a 35-year Santa veteran and has been the Santa New York’s Radio City Music Hall in the past, said if someone plans to be a Santa for one party, there's no need to go overboard with it and just opt for some cheaper costume options. But if Santa profession is calling you, it'll take a lot more than just getting a red sweater.
"If you don't have Santa in the heart, you'll never have it," Graham said. "You got to live it, you got to believe it."
Wagner added being jolly and smiling are things Santa needs to do more than getting the best costume or being able to name off all of Santa's reindeer.
He and Graham both acknowledge it's not an easy job to do, from having to be constantly on the move to dealing with apprehensive children, but it's one of the most rewarding jobs to have.
"The minute I put on the red suit and everything and I come in contact with the children and sit down and talk to them and listen to them and see their eyes light up, and their hopes and dreams for what's going to be coming up in the next few weeks, it was really what makes my day," Graham said. "I wouldn't change it for the world."
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wondering how to hire a Santa Claus? You may be too late to book