Being a mall Santa might seem like a pretty easy job; put a kid on your lap, ask them if they made the naughty or nice list, pose for a photo and send them on their way. But any seasoned mall Santa will tell you the job takes dedication and time.
Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, mall Santa’s can see upwards of 17,000 kids. The grueling holiday schedule can be demanding but also rewarding.
Here are 6 things you may not have known about this season’s biggest mall celebrities:
- Santa College
Yes, you read that right. Santa College. If you’ve ever sat on Santa’s knee at your local mall, there is a good chance he graduated from Santa University. Noerr Programs Corporation is an event company that trains and distributes Santas to more than 278 malls around the country. Every August, Santa U is hosted in Arvada, Colorado. For four days they are trained on everything from Santa 101 to how to ho-ho-ho. Each Santa has to pass a background check, undergo an intense round of interviews and last but not least, have a real beard.
- Stay In Character No Matter What
If you are wearing the suit, you must behave like Santa at all times. This means maintaining a jolly attitude and never yelling at a child no matter how frustrating their screaming may be. Since these white haired, big bellied professionals are representing an image for children they are required to portray Santa Claus until the red suit comes off. And even after the holiday season, if seen out, mall Santas will stay in character just in case little ones want to put their wish list in a little early.
- Secret Swap Out
If a Santa needs to take a break or their shift is ending, sometimes another one will step in without anyone noticing. In the busier malls, there are often two Santas set up with matching physical appearances so it’s not obvious to the kids.
- The Money is Good
Mall Santas are salaried positions and the rate can vary by location and seniority. A beginner Santa can earn an hourly wage of $100, while a veteran’s wage can range from $175 to $200. A survey by Insure.com estimated that if Santa were a real job he would make upwards of $140,000 a year.
- They are not allowed to promise
One of the worst things you can do as a mall Santa is promise a child they will get what they asked for. If they promise something the parents can’t provide this can create a sticky situation for the parents and children. Santa U coaches its Santas to deliver messages of hope, but make no guarantees.
Next time you are holiday shopping, take your kids to meet Santa. They may resent you during the process but the funny memories of Santa holding your crying child will live on forever.