Photo/Illutration Sidelined by the novel coronavirus pandemic, reindeer at Horonobe reindeer ranch in Horonobe, Hokkaido, enjoy an unusually peaceful Christmas season on Dec. 12. (Masatoshi Narayama)

HORONOBE, Hokkaido--About 50 reindeer at a ranch here would normally be as busy as their brethren at the North Pole getting holiday revelers ready for Christmas and Santa Claus.

But at Horonobe reindeer ranch in Horonobe town in Hokkaido, the reindeer are kicking back and relaxing this year, sidelined by the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The reindeer don't seem to mind a bit, although their absence is felt.

In a normal year, the herd would have been very much in demand and on the road for long days leading up to Christmas Day.

Last year, for example, five of the reindeer were sent out on an “extended business trip” to several resort facilities in Hokkaido to entertain tourists and others.

Such festive events as well as annual local events have been canceled due to the pandemic this year. So far, only two reindeer have had an assignment.

In fact, the “stay at home” order is beneficial to the health of the deer species, which are known to have a low tolerance for stress.

Despite the seasonal lull, some of the herd are still providing Christmas cheer. Children who visit the ranch can go on a sleigh ride pulled by reindeer, just like Santa.