© Copyright 2009 by Dale Fehringer
Being a professional Santa requires training, dedication, and perseverance. The hearty souls who take up this age-old profession are subject to long hours and hard, often-unpleasant work, but they also experience a unique opportunity to bring joy to the lives of children.
Hard Work, Occasional Special Treatment
It’s hard work being a professional Santa. It involves long hours filled with inquisitive children, insistent parents, and demanding employers.
Santa pay varies depending on the employer and level of experience. At the top end an experienced Santa with a real beard can earn $10,000 – $20,000 for a 5-6 week stint in a shopping mall.
A few years ago, I met a professional Santa who was paid $11,000 for five week’s work at a shopping center in Southern California. His travel and living expenses were paid, including airfare and a room in a nice hotel. He worked from noon to 8PM, had two breaks and an hour off for lunch, and got to sleep in on Sundays.
Professional Santas who work private parties usually earn less: “anywhere from zero dollars to sky’s the limit,” according to Santa Victor Nevada, who for many years was Canada’s top Santa (http://www.santaschool.com). Typically, it’s closer to the bottom end. The minutes of a recent Countryside, Illinois (near Chicago) City Council meeting reported, “Paid Santa Claus $50, same as last year.”
Occasionally, professional Santas receive special treatment, due to their kindly nature and the spirit of the season. A professional Santa flying home from Los Angeles to Denver heard the flight attendant jokingly tell passengers that since it was Christmas Day the airline had saved a first class seat for Santa. He pushed his call button and told the flight attendant he was ready for his upgrade, which she gave him.
How to Become a Professional Santa
How does someone become a professional Santa? Most importantly, you need to have it in your heart. Susen Mesco, who leads a Santa School in Colorado (http://www.amerevents.com) and bills herself as a Master Santa Claus Trainer, believes Santa must be sensitive and in touch with his nurturing side.
“Children have so little magic in their lives,” she says. “There are few heroes left in today’s world.” She advises her students to put glitter in their beards, so children who touch Santa’s beard can take home a bit of the magic.
Professional Santas must also believe that the magic they help bring to children overshadows the less glamorous aspects of the job. Children ask embarrassing questions, pull their beard, and share all sorts of stories (and germs) with them. Teenagers taunt them. Parents watch them like a hawk and complain if they distress their children.
But they also bring joy into the lives of children.
They need the proper equipment, which includes a Santa suit, hat, wig, beard, belt, boots, gloves, glasses, and eyebrow whitener. All of this will set them back between $30 for a used Santa outfit on eBay and $800 for a deluxe size XXL burgundy plush pile “Majestic” Santa suit from McCulloch’s.
It’s best to make sure they are legally covered. To reduce the odds of legal troubles, Santas should keep their hands in plain view at all times, avoid being alone with children, and speak loudly enough that people around can hear what he and the child say to each other. Santas are also advised not to comment on a child’s hair, eyes, smiles, etc., and to never promise a child that they will get what they ask for. They should wear non-slip gloves to reduce the possibility of dropping children, and have a parent or guardian place small children on Santa’s lap.
Prospective Santa’s also might want to attend a
Santa school, where they would learn a variety of essential Santa
skills, including how to deal with difficult or sensitive
situations. For example, when they need to leave your Santa
post, it might be best to tell the children in line that Santa needs
to check on how toy production is going at the workshop. When
asked “Are you real?” an appropriate answer might be,
“I’m as real as I could be.”
in the subject line of the message.)
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