One of the most important things this Christmas, said new parents Lauren and Alex Tremblay, was getting photos of their 7-month-old, Joelle, with Santa Claus.

"She's both our parents' first grandkid," Alex Tremblay said as he waited for his family's turn to meet Santa in one corner of the Mall of America storefront that hosts the Christmas visitor every year. "If we didn't take these pictures, we'd be out in the cold."

Less important? Santa's race.

As the Tremblays, of Inver Grove Heights, smoothed Joelle's still-sparse hair, wiped her face and dressed her in a fresh shirt, they said they thought it was a bonus that their baby would be meeting Santa Allan Siu.

Siu is the mall's first Asian American Santa, and part of the most-diverse crew of Santas ever to make the commute from the North Pole to the Santa Experience at the Mall of America.

Alex Tremblay said he thought it was important for his daughter to be around people of many races, and meeting Santa on Thursday was just one part of the rich life the Tremblays hope she will have.

"Part of the magic of Santa is that he is supposed to be for everybody," Lauren Tremblay added. "So it's cool to see that reflected."

Almost every family who has arranged to take photos with Santa this year has agreed, said Lando Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience.

"It's been nothing but love," Luther said. "'Kudos' and 'Well done,' and a lot of thank yous."

For most families, Santa is just Santa. He's the man with the red suit, white beard and eight tiny reindeer who brings presents and reminds children to respect their families and be good to each other.

"It's just a good tradition to look forward to every year," said Melissa Langer of Farmington, who brought her four children to the Santa Experience.

Husband Chris Langer said he was glad to be bringing the tradition back after COVID-related closures. Their school-age daughters enjoy coming to the mall this time of year, Melissa Langer said, and are excited to make cookies and cake balls for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Andrew Baechler of Medina said a visit with Santa was about being together as a family and getting into the spirit of giving. He also appreciated the positive reinforcement offered by the drive to stay on Santa's "nice list" this year.

"He gives parents a little hand," Baechler said. Santa asked Baechler's children, Isabella, 4, and Andrew, 5, if they were brushing their teeth and being good to each other.

Baechler loved Santa's response when Isabella said she wasn't sure what she wanted for Christmas.

"He said he would go back to the North Pole and see what the elves were working on," he said. It was the perfect thing to say.

"Santa definitely had the Christmas spirit."