HARRISBURG, Pa. — Even in a pandemic, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Dauphin County.
Santa and Mrs. Claus, known in Lower Paxton Township the other 11 months of the year as Ken and Tammy Hostler, know this holiday season is unlike any other. Which is why they want families to know they can come to them.
"The children have to understand the magic of the season," Ken said. "Every year, children wait for Santa and we have to let them know Santa is still here."
Except this year, instead of office parties, or Little Buffalo State Park in Perry County where the Hostlers typically take their traveling show, Santa is home, on Knisley Road.
When Ken and Tammy realized this Christmas would be different than normal, Mrs. Claus put out an all-points-bulletin on social media. Families can reach out to her through private message on Facebook and schedule a time to visit their house between December 12-23. Once they decide upon a time, the Hostlers say each family will have 15 minutes of private time with Santa, though because of COVID-19, Ken estimates any up-close interaction with children and their parents will be no more than two minutes at maximum.
Santa and Mrs. Claus sit on chairs on their front porch. Families will have the option to keep their kids in front of the porch, or sit on Santa's lap if their comfortable. Mask wearing is not required, thought both Ken and Tammy will wear one throughout the visit.
"We're going to take all the precautions we can," Ken said, acknowledging all visits will take place outside. He says his goal is to make Christmas feel as normal as possible for children.
Becoming the Kringles every year, including the last 38 for Ken, has become a labor of love for this couple. Christmas time brought him extra joy nine years ago, when he asked Tammy to be one of Santa's elves for a holiday work event.
Much like many do at some point in their lives, Tammy fell in love with Santa, and December hasn't been the same since.
"I had never seen him do Santa with children before, and he's so good because, they know he's Santa," Tammy said.