8 Secrete Of Doing The Job Of A Santa That You Should Know

“I was sitting in the chair and the kids are ready to take photos. And she’s like, ‘That’s not the Santa we want.’ But the little girl was like, ‘Mom, but it’s Santa. Let’s go.’ ... And she pulled the kids, walking away,”

8 Secrete Of Doing The Job Of A Santa That You Should Know - The Times Post
8 Secrete Of Doing The Job Of A Santa That You Should Know.

Being Santa Claus is no easy feat. Tim Connaghan, a Santa Claus veteran with over 50 years of experience, shares some fascinating insights into the world of being Santa. As the founder of a Santa school and having trained thousands of Santas, Connaghan knows the ins and outs of this unique profession.

One of the first things Connaghan highlights is the selflessness of Santas. Despite their busy schedules, most Santas donate their time to spread holiday cheer. They strive to fulfill every photo request they receive on the street, never turning anyone away. The ability to create magical moments for children and families is at the core of being Santa Claus.

Contrary to popular belief, being Santa is not limited to the holiday season. Some Santas dedicate themselves to this role year-round, while others see it as a retirement opportunity or a side gig. According to Connaghan’s survey, the average age of a Santa is 66, and many choose to grow their beards for authenticity.

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Being Santa requires a unique set of skills and qualifications. It’s not just about wearing the iconic red suit and saying “Ho ho ho.” Santa Claus represents something magical, embodying the spirit of joy, love, and humanity.

Adrian Walker, a Santa based in the Atlanta metro area, emphasizes that believing in Santa is really about believing in the possibility of goodness and the joy that exists in the world.

The Times Post talked with four Santas about the secrets of their profession, from their biggest tips to what keeps them coming back year after year. Enjoy the feedback!

1. Santa doesn’t make promises about gifts to your children, but they do listen to them.

“We’re not making promises, we’re telling them, ‘We’ll see what we can do,’” said D Sinclair, owner of his company The Real Black Santa. “As Santa, you can’t make a promise to a child that a parent can’t fulfill.”

But Santas do work hard to give every child their full attention. “When a child stands there, and you know they want to tell you something, I stop everything and I talk to them,” Connaghan said.

“I see the intensity of that gaze when I see a kid. And that is, to me, the challenge,” said Roger Rigor, who is volunteering as one of the Chinatown International District Santas at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle this holiday season. “The child looks at me with wonder, and I have to reciprocate that.“

And Santas prepare answers to questions to maintain that wonder. If kids ask where the reindeer are, Connaghan is prepared to talk about how they’re at the North Pole with the elves getting ready for Christmas, for example.

“Everything we do is for the children. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. If we can make a child believe one more year, the parents are so happy. Kids grow up so fast,” Connaghan said.

2. Some Santas do get paid a lot, but there are upfront costs too.

Walker said he gets paid between $8,000 and $10,000 in a holiday season. He estimates that Santas can get paid between $1,000 to $100,000 during the holidays, with the highest-paid salaries going toward Santas who run their agencies booking other Santas for events.

But there are upfront costs, too. Walker estimated that he spent $800 on his Santa suit, and $300 on a leather belt and a belt buckle when he first started getting gigs. For Walker, those investments are worth it because of the magic they help create.

“Some of the first things that people say when they see me is, ‘Oh my God, that is a nice Santa suit. I’ve never seen a Santa suit that nice.’ And so it lets you know that you stand out,” he said.

3. Getting paid isn’t the reason for doing the job, however.

All the Santas interviewed said that they don’t do the job for the money, even when it is a paid job. Sinclair, who has been working as Santa for 23 years, is Santa year-round at birthday parties and corporate events.

“I do just as many events for free as I do for pay,” he said. “‘Are you going to retire on this?’ That’s not what this is about. This is about the joy of the holidays, and continuing to show that joy each and every day to the people that you meet,” Sinclair said.

Walker recalled staying an hour and a half later than what he was being paid for at an event because there was still a long line of people waiting for a photo. “I told [the organizer] I don’t care about the money part, I want to make sure everyone here has an opportunity because they’re like, ‘I want a picture with Black Santa.’”

“I always tell people, ‘Well, what’s in your budget? What can you afford?’ And I work with that, simply because it’s more important to me that the experience is had,” Walker continued.

4. The best Santas train to keep up with their craft.

Professional Santas are not just winging it ― many have gone through schools to learn how to be the mythical figure people love and trust.

For example, Sinclair is the president of a group on Facebook called Santas of Color Coalition and he said they offer monthly Zoom trainings on topics like beard maintenance, how to be a storyteller, and how to be on social media.

Once you’re Santa, the learning never stops.

“I’m doing professional training, I learned techniques of how to pose with people, how to interact with children, how to be appropriate,” Walker said. “I try to maintain … liability insurance and damage insurance, so when things do happen, you’re not just somebody who just picked up a suit and put it on and said ‘Boom, I’m Santa.’”

5. They have strategies for answering a child’s difficult questions.

Connaghan said the most common challenging question children will ask him is “Can you fix it? Can you get Mom and Dad back together?”

Connaghan said in these situations, he acknowledges what the child is saying but does not make promises about whether he can fix anything. He will stress that the child has family who love them very much ― and that Santa loves the child, too.

“It’s a wonderful thing, saying ‘I love you too.’ And when I say ‘Santa loves you too,’ it’s kind of my signal to change subjects and get into the tree and the gifts,” he said.

When children ask Santa for intangible impossibilities like bringing a loved one back to life, Connaghan said, “The key thing to remember is you need to listen. You need to hear what they say. And acknowledge it. And let them know that Santa’s magic is toys.”

6. There are times when kids are uncomfortable, and parents need to recognize that.

Connaghan advises families to not force children to sit on Santa’s lap if they don’t want to: “‘You guys want to sit in a chair? I’ll stand next to you.’ Or, ‘Hey, let’s stand up and take a picture.’ … It kind of tells some sort of story versus just standing there with your hands at your side doing the ‘cheese’-type smile,” he said.

Connaghan also said it can be a win-win for Santas and for families to do the heavy lifting of children onto Santa’s knees.

“It eliminates awkward pickups. And the other thing, it saves your back,” he said. “You lift 500 kids in a day, and you go back to your room that night, and your back is killing you.“

And if the child is nervous, Connaghan invites parents to ask the child to stand over to the side and wait a little bit, so that “maybe the child will watch the other kids and after a while, they’ll get a little more relaxed, won’t be as afraid.“

7. Adults are welcome to join the photo with children too.

Sinclair said he often sees families that stand in the corner while their child takes a photo with Santa. That’s why Sinclair advises families to come dressed up and prepared to be in the photo with their child.

“This should be a photo that everyone should be able to look back on and say, ‘Man, we had fun. This is a family tradition,’” Sinclair said.

8. Santas are diverse, and there’s a high demand for them.

When Sinclair was working as a mall Santa years ago, he recalled a mother who turned her family away when she saw he was the Santa for that afternoon.

“I was sitting in the chair and the kids are ready to take photos. And she’s like, ‘That’s not the Santa we want.’ But the little girl was like, ‘Mom, but it’s Santa. Let’s go.’ … And she pulled the kids, walking away,” he said. “That probably still happens more times than not.“

But the demand for diverse Santas is high. Sinclair said the Santas of Color Coalition has grown to over 200 members in at least 19 states. Sinclair, who is based in the Atlanta region, said he’s traveled as far as Canada, Jamaica, and the Bahamas for gigs.

“Folks are looking for African American Santas, and we’re popping up everywhere, and we’re showing up and doing the job,” Sinclair said.

Ultimately, Santa is a beloved icon that working Santas are proud to embody. “It’s a privilege and an honor to be considered to play that role,” Rigor said.

And when you’re a Santa of color, it can be a special privilege. For Sinclair, it’s become part of his identity. “Most folks know me, they just say ‘Black Santa.’ I usually don’t get called anything else,” he said. “Even the kids in church call me ‘Black Santa.’”

Rigor, who is Filipino, said Santa is a universal figure and at the same time, it can be even more meaningful for folks to see “that there’s one that’s from my culture or from my people.”

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