Children aged over four have been told they must wear a face mask to see Santa at a Burton Latimer garden centre.
Bosworth's Garden Centre in Finedon Road has introduced the rule at their Santa's grotto in the run-up to Christmas, leading to a backlash online.
They say they are doing so to keep their staff and Santa safe after the surge in Omicron Covid cases, despite Government guidance classing children under 11 as exempt.
One Wellingborough mum, who did not want to be named, cancelled her visit which was planned for today (Monday) with her two sons after she was informed of the measures.
She said: "Children have not had to wear a mask this whole time in the pandemic, so being asked to wear one just to see Santa is absolutely ridiculous.
"If holding it was that much of a risk they should have just closed the grotto."
She had made a booking in November for her two sons, aged two-and-a-half and six months, and cancelled the visit after Bosworth's initially emailed customers on Friday telling them all children aged two and above would have to wear a mask.
The mum thought it was a typing error and said she rang them to query it.
She said: "They basically said that if he was not going to wear one he was not going in to see Santa."
The age category was then changed to all visitors aged above four, with refunds on offer to those who would not go because of it.
The Wellingbrough said she ended up taking her sons to a grotto in Luton this afternoon because other local events were fully-booked.
A statement from Bosworth's said they felt it was necessary to take the measure to protect staff. Bosworth's said employers can choose to ask their staff or customers to wear a face covering, even if they are not legally required.
In a statement the garden hit out at 'vile abuse' posted online after the change was announced which left staff so upset that they took down their Facebook page.
They said: "As a business we have a duty of care to our staff and our customers. The recent surge in Covid cases has been monitored by ourselves continuously, and we have engaged with our staff to ensure we are protecting as many people as possible. Santa is very much in the vulnerable category, and as employers we have a duty to protect him.
"We were faced with a decision as whether to cancel the grotto in the days leading up to Christmas, or to mitigate the circumstances by taking further precautions. Santa gets very close with children during the grotto experience, and we felt it necessary to protect him further. We have therefore stopped taking photos of the experience as this was when children were getting very close to Santa, and we made a decision to request that all visitors to the experience wear a face mask.
"We only sent this information out to customers who had booked the experience via email. However, the information has been transferred to social media and this has led to an extraordinary response. Government guidance and common sense have often clashed during this pandemic, and this is a classic situation. Our staff were so upset by the, frankly, vile abuse that was posted online that we took the decision to take down our Facebook page. We are after all only trying to protect people. Researching some of the worst Facebook posts, it is clear that the majority have not booked to see Santa, and many are not even from this area."
The garden centre added that customers at the grotto at the weekend had been 'fully understanding' of the rule change and that any customers who wouldn't comply with their request will be refunded.
They said that any children or adults with medical exemptions don't have to wear a mask.
The statement added: "Our Santa experience has been fully booked all weekend and is fully booked up until Christmas. We have fully refunded any customers who have decided that they cannot comply with our request to wear a face mask. The social media abuse has remained exactly where it belongs, on social media. All grotto customers this weekend have been fully understanding and we have had absolutely no issues, although several members of the grotto team were very reluctant to come into work on Saturday as they feared for their safety.
"Our Santa experience is a maximum of five minutes in a very confined space, with several people, and as such we felt it required further management of Covid measures. It is a paid-for event, and therefore the general public have a choice as to whether to attend. Our garden centre is open as normal, we do not charge entry and we do not request the same Covid measures as we do for our grotto experience. We are still requesting that children over four wear face masks if possible for the few minutes that they are with Santa. Children and adults with medical exemptions are not required to wear a mask. We have altered the initial requirements we sent out via e mail as it did not accurately convey what we were trying to achieve.
"On a positive note, we have had a really good weekend in the grotto, with lots of positive comments about the experience, and also lots of feedback from people who have seen the social media storm and are actually very supportive of our actions. Nobody wants Santa to get Covid in the week before Christmas."