Your mall Santa may have a specialized degree under his straining, big-buckled belt.
In Michigan, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School has been certifying Santa Claus imitators for the past 77 years. Each year, dozens of white-bearded, crinkly-eyed men and a handful of Christmas-loving women gather in a gingerbread-esque home called the Santa House in the town of Midland. These soon-to-be Santas and Mrs. Clauses study the same books and traditions that began in 1937 when the school was started by Howard, the original Macy’s Day Parade Santa.
“Being Santa is a privilege, not a job,” was his motto. What began for him as a Santa role in a 4th-grade school play turned into a career as Santa personified so well that Howard was in demand across the U.S. But he didn’t get the idea to open a school until a reporter suggested he train others. Today more than 3,000 Santas count themselves as alums of the oldest Santa school in the world.