• The holiday season is upon us, but it may look a little different with all the "Santa-tizing" this year.
  • The mall Santa and other holiday traditions have been completely eliminated, transformed into contactless experiences, or gone completely virtual as we follow CDC COVID guidelines. But just how different is it for those on the other side of the table -- our local Santas?
  • Rannie Battle, Jr., a New Yorker who has portrayed jolly Old Saint Nick in years past, shared with News 4 New York what his experience is like during this unprecedented holiday season.

The holiday season is upon us, but it may look a little different with all the "Santa-tizing" this year.

The mall Santa and other holiday traditions have been completely eliminated, transformed into contactless experiences, or gone completely virtual as we follow CDC COVID guidelines. But just how different is it for those on the other side of the table -- our local Santas?

Rannie Battle, Jr., a New Yorker who has portrayed jolly Old Saint Nick in years past, shared with News 4 New York what his experience is like during this unprecedented holiday season.

Battle, 41, is a retired FDNY firefighter, has portrayed Santa Claus at the Bed Stuy Gateway Bid. This year, with COVID in mind, they shifted gears and created the Bed Stuy “Winter Wonderland” experience, which includes a contactless Santa Village Station where children and families can safely take touchless photos with Santa.

“You know kids want to sit on Santa's lap. They want to come up and hug you. But, you can't because you have to do the social distance. You want to keep them safe as well as yourself," Battle said.

The "Winter Wonderland" is the brainchild of Bed Stuy Gateway Bid Interim Director Lynette Battle and is piloted by The Van Allen Institute's Neighborhoods Now Project, which aims to provide rapid-response to aid pandemic recovery in the city with a focus on lower-income communities and communities of color.

This event will run every weekend through Dec. 20 from 11 to 6 p.m. at Marcy Plaza, located off Fulton Street across from Restoration Plaza.

Over the years, Battle made his way up the "North Pole ranks" from elf to Santa Claus -- a portrayal that brings him joy as he gives back to children, hospitals, and families in need during the holiday season.

Keith L. Frost

“I brought another Santa suit, and I got more into the role. Seeing the kids' faces when visiting the hospitals -- they're happy," he said.

However, COVID-19 has also impacted this aspect of portraying Santa, since he cannot visit hospitals as he used to.

“We can't go into the hospital because the children are already sick. There's no need to bring any outside Covid exposure to them," he said. "A lot of kids get excited about the holidays, and it's unfortunate because we all had to adjust to certain things. This is something I love to do every winter. But, we are working together to making sure the kids receive their gifts this year."

Aside from his Santa duties, Battle has been finishing his Master’s degree at John Jay College. And if his aforementioned hectic schedule isn't' enough, he still finds time to bring even more jolly joy by visiting children who are in hospitals as part of the organization called The Vulcan Society Inc.

The Vulcan Society Inc. is the fraternal organization of Black firefighters, EMS, fire inspectors, and civilian personnel of the FDNY. They come together to bring holiday cheer to those sick in area hospitals, including Harlem Hospital and Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.

Rannie Battle Jr.
Santa with his little helpers from the Vulcan Society Inc.