Santa really is magical.
The big bloke in the red suit made a surprise appearance in Tuggeranong town centre on Friday morning and the effect was instantaneous.
People waved from their passing cars, a delivery man smiled shyly at him, kids called out "Santa!" and the old and young got out their phones to capture a pic of Saint Nick.
The reason for all the excitement is that Santa really is coming to town.
Santa Claus photos for Christmas will make a return to Canberra shopping centres this year - albeit with children socially distanced from Santa, rather than sitting on his lap, just like last year. It's just another aspect of Canberra returning to some normality.
Non-essential retail reopens in the ACT from October 29, with density limits of one person per four square metres in stores.
The Shopping Centre Council of Australia executive director Angus Nardi said it was working with the industry and public health agencies to ensure a COVID-safe return to the shops.
"We are well-prepared to welcome the community back to shopping centres as lockdowns lift and shoppers and retailers gear up for Christmas. Our industry wants to assure the community that their health, wellbeing and safety remains our highest priority," he said.
"We'll be making sure the much-loved tradition of Santa photos are staged in a COVID-safe way, so this wonderful family tradition can continue in 2021."
It's an exciting time for Santa's helpers such as Michael Ubrihien, 30, who is donning the red suit for the sixth year. The actor and retail worker also becomes Santa for Scene to Believe.
"I enjoy it because it brings a lot of joy to people," he said.
"I really get to stretch my improvisational muscles and just put smiles on people's faces."
He does have some tricks up his red sleeve for making kids smile.
"Yes, I like to be really silly," he said.
"So, I'll tell them a joke or point out something that is blatantly false. Like I'll get their names mixed up. 'Oh, you're Steve and you're Jill'. And they're like, 'No, no Santa! That's not right!'. That's probably one of my favourite things to do."
What happens if they ask for something super-extravagant for Christmas?
"Rule of thumb is we never make any promises," Michael said. "My go to is, 'Oh, we'll see what happens and remember to be good' or 'Maybe that's something you can talk to your parents about'."
There are also ways to bridge the gap between Santa and the kids as they sit away from him in the photos due to social distancing requirements.
"I think the key is to be a lot more animated and outgoing. Bigger waves, bigger gestures, bigger reactions," he said.
"Even after what happened last year, it was still a great season and all the families who came in loved it."
South.Point shopping centre marketing manager Ash Bujaroski said it would also stage special events, including a Santa parade.
"After so long in lockdown, we really want to make Christmas special this year and bring the joy and fun back to Canberrans," she said.
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