The mall Santa Claus is an ubiquitous character, ready to embrace any child, sweatered pet, or giddy adult with glee and a welcoming, open knee to perch upon. But how does one become a certified Santa in the first place?
That’s where Santa Claus school comes in.
The students of Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School of Midland, MI, assemble as early as mid-October. When they meet, the 100-plus wanna-be St. Nicks congregate, clad in varying seasonal shades of green and red, and wait to board a train that will take them on a journey through the Michigan countryside.
Why? Because Tom Valent, dean of Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, wants to give the up-and-coming Clauses the opportunity to get the “feeling of what it’s like to ride the Polar Express.”
It’s this very sincerity that shadows the entirety of the course. The Santas-in-training study the history of Santa Claus, practice reindeer-handling, sleigh-driving, and toy-making, and even have the students learn about each and every one of the original St. Nicholas’s elves.
The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School began in 1937 in Albion, NY. After his death, two of his students took the reins and moved the school to Michigan.
The school celebrated its 50th year in 2015.
The Santa students who attend the school are often recurring visitors and take the classes for a number of reasons. Some are newcomers who seek to earn extra money for retirement, whereas others carry on family traditions at churches or school.
After all, Santa provides more than just presents under the Christmas tree. Santa Claus encourages the proliferation of hope, joy, and imagination in children. The presents that Santa Claus is said to bring can encourage children’s free playtime — 45 to 60 minutes of which can significantly benefit their development and well-being.
And in many cases, Santa Claus can inspire hope.
The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School is not the only school of its kind. On the contrary, there are schools like the Santa School in Calgary, Alberta, and the Professional Santa Claus School in Denver, CO.
While being Santa might be a seasonal job, the joy these professional Santas provide is enough to keep people happy year round.