It's the time of year when jolly men in red suits, with perfect white beards, and that unmistakable twinkle in their eyes set up shop in local malls and department stores to spread the holiday cheer to children far and wide.
Ever wonder how your mall's Santa has the perfect answer to your child's unrealistic Christmas request? Or how he never hesitates in naming and describing the nuances of each reindeer and elf? Or how he knows how to say Merry Christmas in virtually every language—including sign language?
The answer lies in several institutions—"Santa Universities"—that educate future Kris Kringles on the ins and outs of playing the jolliest man alive.
At the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School (CWH) in Midland, Michigan—also known as the "Harvard of Santa Schools"—each year around 130-200 Santa students attend an intensive, three-day program where they:
- Practice making toys;
- Learn reindeer habits;
- Learn to handle families and children;
- Attend suit fittings for their costumes;
- Memorize the history of Saint Nicholas;
- Take part in dance classes to build confidence;
- Receive a comprehensive North Pole education;
- Practice applying perfect rosy-cheek makeup and grooming beards;
- Learn sign language to communicate with children with impaired hearing; and
- Take a workshop on diet to lead a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a Santa physique.
CWH was established in 1937, and is recognized worldwide as the oldest Santa School. Thomas Valent, the current dean of CWH and a Santa alumnus, says "It's a privilege to be Santa. Every child that comes and sits on Santa's knee remembers that forever, so when you're putting an everlasting memory into a child's mind, you want to make sure it's a good one."
Santa might make a great topic for a pop-up course
CWH's tuition starts at $450 for a returning Santa student, and the school offers tuition discounts for couples enrolling together to become Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Another option for Santa education is Noerr Programs' summer intensive Santa University in Arvada, Colorado—also known as the "Noerr Pole." Around 70 Santa students attend the school each year. Over the course of four days, they study topics such as:
- How to properly sit with a child on their laps;
- How to say Merry Christmas in multiple languages;
- What to say when a child asks for something intangible for Christmas; and
- How to stay hydrated while sitting in a hot costume for up to 12 hours a day.
When it comes to applying and getting accepted to Noerr's Santa school, there is a great deal of vetting involved. Each Santa undergoes a comprehensive background check and multiple interviews.
"These men are working with children, and they represent us, our clients, and most of all Santa," says Ruth Rosenquist, the public-relations director for the Noerr Programs. "So, it's important they have the right nuance."
In the United Kingdom, the London-based Ministry of Fun (MOF) runs a similar Santa School, which has trained 640 Santas to date, along with 2,000 performers and two office dogs.
The MOF offers Santa courses in:
- "General jolliness";
- Memorizing reindeer names; and
- Saying "Merry Christmas" in 15 languages.
Santas applying to the MOF likewise go through an intense vetting process, and are even weighed to make sure they fit proper Santa criteria.
"We only deploy brilliant people who will create and produce memorable moments that have genuine impact," says MOF's founder James Lovell. "We take fun extremely seriously" (Hancock, Business Insider, 11/21; Kirby, Konbini, accessed 12/19; Korber/Reagan, CNBC, 12/18/15; Little, National Geographic, 12/19; McCarthy, IBTimes, 12/14/14; McKalin, Tech Times, 12/23/14).
Amidst all the jolliness of the holiday season, make sure your students stay on track
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