How do you become Santa Claus?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 22 2006 11:17 AM

How To Be a Shopping-Mall Santa

First, grow a beard.

Santa Claus. Click image to expand.
Santa Claus

This holiday season, the average shopping mall will hire two full-time Santas to entertain almost 8,000 children, according to a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers. Anyone can slip into a red suit and bellow, "Ho-ho-ho!" But how do you become a professional shopping-mall Santa Claus?

Sign up with a Santa distributor. While would-be Santas can apply to smaller shopping centers directly, national staffing services farm out talent to the larger malls. Noerr Programs Corp. serves as the North Pole's version of central casting: It supplies St. Nicks to 169 major malls across the country. At Noerr, aspiring Santas are carefully interrogated about their willingness to travel, experience with kids, and, if applicable, their own memorable moments playing Santa. One key question: What does Christmas mean to you? Preferred answer: It's all about the children. Santas can be of any ethnicity—certain malls prefer African-American or bilingual Santas—but they must be male, in keeping with tradition. Having a natural beard is also a prerequisite.

Advertisement

After passing a background check and receiving their mall assignment, Noerr Santas receive a list of dos and don'ts. Breaking character is a no-no. Trained Santas must maintain a jolly disposition, regardless of the situation. When asked for gifts, they should reply with positive phrases like, "Santa will see what he can do about that," to avoid disappointing a hopeful child. Any Santa supplied by Noerr also has to commit to a healthy regimen: avoiding large meals, steering clear of alcohol, and getting plenty of rest.

While personality and preparation are essential, appearance seals the deal. The best Santas wear hand-sewn suits that include pants, a jacket trimmed with white fake fur, a black belt, and long white gloves. (Since many Santas are naturally husky, padding is often unnecessary.) Beards should be manicured daily and bleached professionally. (Bleaching at home is not recommended, as improper technique could cause beards to go yellow.) A company like Noerr provides the Santa suit, but employees should show up with their own wire-rimmed glasses and boots, as well as enough blush to maintain a rosy visage.

According to Noerr, rookie Santas earn up to $10,000 per season, while repeat performers command more than that, as they are a magnet for the mall and attract loyal followers. Those looking to boost their résumés enroll at the International University of Santa Claus, based in Riverside, Calif. IUSC students pay $89 for a one-day workshop in which they learn tricks like how to guess a child's age based on his grade level in school. (Add five, and voilá.) They also get insider tips on the importance of keeping four to six red suits on hand and nibbling a half-dozen breath mints per day.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Tim Connaghan of IUSC and Ruth Rosenquist of Noerr Programs.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.