Another of the holiday traditions that draw visitors young and old to Center City won’t be happening this year. The city’s new COVID-19 restrictions announced Monday forced Comcast to cancel its high-tech Comcast Holiday Spectacular, a company spokesperson said.

Before the city clampdown, Comcast had been planning to move the show outdoors. The crowd-pleasing presentation that usually plays on the giant video wall in the Comcast Center lobby would have been seen instead on a high-definition screen outside the building, accompanied by a high-definition sound system, the spokesperson said.

New city restrictions announced Monday limit outdoor gatherings and events to “10 percent of maximum capacity of the space, or 10 people per 1,000 square feet for venues with an undefined maximum capacity — not to exceed 2,000 people in any outdoor space." More than 2 million people have seen the show — a mix of technology, music, and movie magic — since it debuted in the Comcast Center lobby in 2008.

The nearby Macy’s Center City store, which inherited the beloved Christmas Light Show from Wanamakers, had already announced plans to take its show online to discourage crowding in the areas surrounding the Grand Court at the Center City store.

City restrictions on retail stores and malls now set “a maximum density of 5 people per 1,000 square feet," and it’s estimated more than 175,000 people see the show during a typical holiday season.

The Macy’s light display will be powered from Nov. 23 to Dec. 24, the company said, and can be seen from home as part of an online show that will take viewers on a “light-filled journey through popular Christmas stories" and will feature the sounds of the famed Wanamaker Organ.

The Dickens Village display that’s also housed in the store will also move online. Virtual visits with Santa Claus will be available beginning Nov. 27 as part of Macy’s Santaland.

People record a preview of the Macy's Christmas Light Show on their phones, before the show opened to the public in 2019. In a typical holiday season, more than 175,000 people will gather on balconies and around the Wanamaker Eagle statue to watch the 11-minute show on the wall of the Grand Court of the Wanamaker building.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
People record a preview of the Macy's Christmas Light Show on their phones, before the show opened to the public in 2019. In a typical holiday season, more than 175,000 people will gather on balconies and around the Wanamaker Eagle statue to watch the 11-minute show on the wall of the Grand Court of the Wanamaker building.

Wondering what a virtual visit to the jolly old elf is like? “Upon arrival to Santa’s house, he will interact with your children through a whimsical, open-ended pre-recorded conversation that will allow kids to express themselves. Santa enjoys hearing all of these wonderful thoughts and wishes and will respond in his uniquely whimsical way. Finally, the visit will culminate with a special Santa selfie,” according to the Macy’s website.