Santa For Sale: Is His Lap a Luxury?


Ah, Christmas. That yuletide time of year where strands of lights twinkle in the trees, cozy homes smell of gingerbread and pine, and the faces of children all over the world are aglow with anticipation for the arrival of the man of the hour – Santa Claus himself.

I always looked forward to sitting on Santa’s lap each year. I’d whisper in the jolly old elf’s ear about how I wanted a Monchichi puppet, before he winked at my mom and handed me a candy cane. This was the eighties, before the PC era, when Santa still gave out candy. Now, I knew back then that that wasn’t the real Santa. The real Santa only came out once before Christmas Eve, to appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. But I knew he was one of Santa’s helpers and would somehow get the head honcho the message.

Seeing Santa is a treasured memory every child deserves and so, when I read a press release about how the Promenade Temecula was introducing a new online reservation system to make seeing Santa that much more convenient I thought, “Sweet! Give those elves an iPad because there’s now an app for that!”

I jumped at the chance to make my reservation; logging on to and picking the right day to fit into my schedule. I enter my name and contact info and hit send. But I didn’t receive a confirmation with my milk and Christmas cookies. No. Instead, Santa Claus asked for a credit card.

That’s right. In order to make a reservation to see Santa at the mall this year, you are required to make a $20.00, non-refundable, photo deposit.

So, after a little digging, I discovered that, before December 9th, there will be a walk up line where you can wait to see Santa, if you choose to wait until there’s an open slot between the multitudes of reservations. But, AFTER December 10th, reservations are required! You cannot see Santa for free after December 10th!

Let’s forget about the fact that the mall is requiring us to purchase a photo before seeing it, giving the photographer zero incentive to take a good picture. What about those families who have tight budgets and have to save every penny at the holidays?

I contacted Kym Espinoza, Director of Marketing for Promenade Temecula, and she authorized me to use the following statement:

“This year, Promenade Temecula is making every effort to provide families who wish to visit Santa a better option than in previous years. From November 22 through December 9, guests are invited to either reserve an advance photo sitting with Santa or wait in a traditional line to visit with Santa. After December 10, Santa will be visiting with children and families by appointment only. This is to better serve the majority of guests who expect to purchase photos with Santa. We encourage those guests who choose not to purchase photos to plan their visits with Santa early in the season.”

Take from that what you will. It is a mall, after all, so better servicing those with money makes sense, from a marketing standpoint. I just wonder what Charlie Brown and Linus (ironically mascots for the mall’s holiday festivities) would say about this further step toward the commercialization of Christmas? Yes, some would argue that Santa himself is a symbol of said commercialism. All I know is that I remember sitting on the big guy’s lap and what I’ve retained is the memory, not the toys.

The fact of the matter is, I’m still going to take my kids to see Santa because we’re a family who can afford it and I’m not asking anyone to boycott mall Santa. I just hope that anyone who is less fortunate sees this story and visits Santa before December 9th. Those kids deserve those memories, too.

The good thing is, we now know the elves have iPads at the ready, so maybe just send him a tweet? #SantaForSale

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Holly Herndon

Holly Herndon

Holly has been covering arts & entertainment in the Temecula Valley for as long as she has been a part of the community. She loves San Diego sports almost as much as she loves her family.


  1. Allen Stevens
    November 13, 2015 at 8:05 pm — Reply

    I’m glad I grew up in the days when every kid saw Santa and did not have to make reservations and fork out 20.00 dollars! So sad what Christmas has become!

  2. Anna Manley
    November 13, 2015 at 8:30 pm — Reply

    I was stoked to see we could book an appointment now since I was in line for FOUR hours last year.. Paying $20 up front is lame though, even if it goes towards a picture purchase

  3. Nklink
    November 13, 2015 at 8:43 pm — Reply

    See Santa here instead :

  4. Josh-Brandi Clabough
    November 13, 2015 at 9:13 pm — Reply

    Go to old town for free and make a donation to the boyscouts for a photo…5 bucks:) way less stressful too!

  5. Beverly Richardson
    November 13, 2015 at 10:06 pm — Reply

    That is so terrible. There are a lot of single parents that cannot afford $20. Boycott the Temecula mall. They just want money.

  6. Eloira Sanchez
    November 13, 2015 at 11:08 pm — Reply

    I was not happy with our experience wit them.

    We went a couple years ago and I was able to preview the photos with no obligation to buy. I bought two items. I got one on the spot. The other item, was to be a Christmas ornament of a candid shot of my eldest child (she was about 5-years ol)d and Santa chatting. The ornament arrived later in poor condition and they wouldn’t do anything about it because the ornament was made by a company they outsourced. I wrote that company a couple emails (because it was the only way they could be reached). I never did get a reply.

    I did not get a digital copy of that photo because I thought Inwas doing it some justice by having it printed on an ornament instead.

    That was the only and last time I ever paid for a Santa picture. Way to ruin a magical moment/memory.

  7. Virginia McKibben Bradbury
    November 13, 2015 at 11:28 pm — Reply

    Well now red cup protesters, here’s a new one for you!

  8. Jennifer Smith Bullock
    November 14, 2015 at 9:17 am — Reply

    Sounds like the mall needs some competition. I think the city of Temecula should have Santa appear there. Offer another location to visit Santa and the mall line would diminish.

  9. Kathi Mitchell
    November 14, 2015 at 9:31 am — Reply

    This is horrible!!!

  10. Vanessa Holtkamp
    November 14, 2015 at 11:01 am — Reply

    Last year you could get a “fast pass” text with a return time. Why can’t they do that again? Or at least have designated time for the traditional line instead of cutting it off after the 9th. That is 3 whole weeks of just $20 appointments!!! I hope parents see this before taking their kids so the kids don’t get upset.

  11. Andrea Borgeson
    November 14, 2015 at 12:28 pm — Reply

    Well I’m sure there’s another mall where I won’t have to pay to see Santa.

  12. Shelley Brown
    November 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm — Reply

    $20 would be wasted for me, every year we went to see Santa, every year Daniel would chicken out last minute and refuse to go up.

  13. Kim
    December 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm — Reply

    Think of all the money made on no shows. And all the horrible photos taken because there’s no incentive to produce great looking Santa shots.
    Isn’t Temecula same place that’s discouraging anyone to be homeless in that town? So you see like things usually do go we move another step closer to weeding out the people we don’t want around us. And basically it’s mall doesn’t want lower income or no income children taking up space in the line to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they hope to get for Christmas this year. How people can sleep at night I don’t know. Knowing that many children this year can’t afford pictures with Santa. Thank god there’s other santas to see around town.
    Total snob behavior. Christmas is for everyone. Rich, poor, homeless, reservationless. LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE REALLY IS. CHRISTMAS AND SANTA AND CHRIST AND CHRISTMAS LIGHTS it all boils down to money. Who can make a quick buck on Christmas? Now santa’s in on it!

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