Have you always wanted to know what it feels like to be Santa? There are schools training people how to be the legendary Santa Claus!
by Julia Migné
Does the chilly breeze of the holidays make you giddy inside? Does the sound of Christmas carols and tinkling bells take you to a place of ethereal bliss? Have you always wanted to know what it felt like to be Santa – all suited and booted in red and riding a sleigh filled with gifts? Believe it or not, we might have found the perfect place for you.
Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, the longest running Santa school in the world, was established in 1937 in Michigan, United States. The school takes pride in upholding the traditions and preserving the history of Santa Claus. Their mission is to equip students with the ability “to enter the hearts and spread the Christmas spirit to everyone they meet.”
One of the essential parts of becoming a Santa is, of course, looking the part. “There are actually two hours in the training on how to apply makeup,” explains Santa Mike from the Professional Santa Claus School of Denver in Colorado.
“I know it sounds so unusual but you have to understand that you’re dealing with men who throughout their lives probably never put on makeup.”
Looking like Santa, though, is not enough. As Susen Mesco, founder and director of the Denver school, explains during the training: “You do not play Santa, you become Santa.”
In order to become a good Santa, the students need to learn a lot about children and how to deal with them. Learning to speak to them is the first step but the second one is much more difficult: being able to answer their questions.
“Sometimes they can come up with very very difficult questions,” says Santa Mike.
Passion and love for Christmas are pre-requisites for the job.”The first need is to have the heart, the desire to listen to children,” explains Santa Mike. “To try to bring joy and the wonder of the holiday season, of Christmas.”
If you’re wanting to become Santa, you’re guaranteed to never spend two days doing the same thing. One moment you’re in a photo studio doing shoots with children in their pyjamas for Christmas cards, and the next thing you know, you’re sitting next to a grotto meeting 50 to 60 children per hour.
“The majority of the work I do now is private parties,” says Santa Mike. “I will go to people’s home while they’re having a party and I come in and entertain the children by singing and dancing, reciting The Night Before Christmas, handing out gifts and posing for photographs. It’s very fun, it really is!”
Christmas now tends to transcend religions and many children who come to see Santa are not of Christian faith. They just love Santa and they love the season of joy and peace associated with him. Santa Mike adds: “I’ve had Muslim children, I’ve had Hindu children, I’ve had Jewish children sit with Santa and they don’t care. The religion isn’t the point for them.”
Somehow, Santa has even managed to transcend boundaries with more and more schools appearing in the world. From the UK to Canada, the trained Santas are now being sent in Asian countries such as China. “The Chinese just love the whole Santa persona,” explains Santa Mike. “It’s become a worldwide phenomenon.”
Julia Migné is a multimedia journalist and wildlife photographer specialising in environmental issues and odd hobbies. She has written for Africa Geographic and BBC Wildlife among others. An endless traveller, she swears that she would visit one country for each letter of the alphabet.