For the best Santas, certification of Christmas spirit

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for one of Santa’s representatives for your department store or your company Christmas Party, you might check with the Charles H. Howard School.

Founded in 1937, the school is the oldest, continuously running Santa school in the world. It’s trained thousands of people to help Santa with his Christmas mission of spreading cheer throughout the world, while the big man himself oversees the operation in the North Pole. This year’s session was held for three days in October. 

Tom Valent is the dean of the school, and has been a Santa for 35 years. He says being a good Santa takes a big heart — and someone who’s willing to comitt to being Santa all year.

“The folks who come to this school already have the Santa spirit,” he said. “We build it even bigger and whet their appetite for more.”

Valent said about 90 percent of his students have real beards and the rest must invest substantial money in getting hair that will look real.

Holly Valent, the school’s registrar, said their target is people who really want to invest in being the best Santa: people with the heart and feelings of Santa himself.

“It takes a lot of effort,” she said. “We try to make sure when they come to our school, that they’re educated in every facet of Santa, so when they go out into the world, they can be the best.”

The Charles H. Howard school offers a 40-hour program that students complete in three days. They receive a certificate indicating their achievement.

Valent said the school doesn’t do research about whether its graduates are more employable or receive higher wages, but the students seem proud of their accomplishments.

“They put it on their resumes and their cards,” she said. “We care that the Santa can do such a great job for the children.”

And by that, she means, knowing the story of Santa and the history of St. Nicholas. Knowing what reindeer are like and what they eat. Being able to describe what it’s like to be flying in a sleigh.

To accomplish that, the school has a heard of reindeer as well as a full-size sleigh simulator that Valent himself built.

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