RAMON PRESSON: Training Saint Nick

RAMON PRESSON: Training Saint Nick

Do you know if your department store Saint Nick is a certified Santa of an accredited Santa training institution?

There are three recognized Santa Claus schools in the United States, the Harvard of the lot being the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, Michigan, founded in 1937.

A fourth Santa academy is located in Alberta, Canada which puts your Jolly Old Elf in Training a bit closer to the North Pole. That may feel a bit more authentic than the International University of Santa Claus with classes available in warmer climates including Phoenix and Tampa.

A very popular option at IUSC are the workshops aboard the cruise ship to Mexico. I’m picturing hundreds of Santa impersonators in lounge chairs by the starboard pool sipping peach daiquiris and pina coladas. Makes you wonder how often the reindeer have had to hide the keys to the sled from Santa after he’s spent a few days on the boat.

Mall Duty
Of course, before he launches his annual global midnight tour featuring wide-scale breaking and entering, Santa has to make appearances at department stores and shopping malls. According to employment data from the Santa schools most Santas work about forty 10-hour days and pull down between $10,000 and $30,000 during that time period.

In exchange, there are 5 main career hazards that experienced mall Santas report in working so closely with children: being urinated on, scratched, bitten, kicked in the shins, and hit in the groin. That sounds a lot like playing rec league soccer.

In 1890, James Edgar, the owner of a department store in Brockton, Massachusetts, was the first retailer to hire a Santa to put terrified children on his lap. Edgar could not have foreseen the multi-million dollar industry that the mall Santa would become with 18.2 million children visiting 1,800 U.S. shopping malls with an average of 4,600 photos taken with Santa per location.

Me and Santa
Having perfect recall, (my mother will deny all of these incidents) I offer some excerpts from a few of my visits with Santa over the years

Ramon, Age 4, on Santa’s Lap:

Santa: Have you been a good boy this year?
Ramon: Define “good.”

Ramon, Age 5, on Santa’s Lap:

Santa: Have you been naughty or nice? Santa’s always watching, you know.
Ramon: So why are you asking me about my conduct if you’ve been watching the whole time?

Ramon, Age 6, on Santa’s Lap

Santa: Have you been a good boy this year?
Ramon: If you don’t know then I’m certainly not going to incriminate myself.

Ramon, Age 7, on Santa’s Lap

Santa: I remember you. I hope you’ve been a good boy. Remember, Santa knows when you’ve been sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.
Ramon: Whoa, do you know how that creepy that sounds? Have you been stalking me? Hold on, I’m telling my Dad …

Ramon, Age 8, on Santa’s Lap
Santa: Oh God, it’s you again. OK, let’s have it. Have you been a good boy this year?
Ramon: This is clearly a works-based religion you’re running here. Merit and rewards for good behavior. Coal in the stocking as punishment. Shaming by using coal — also a not-so- subtle fire-in- hell reference designed to instill fear and guilt. Ever heard of grace? Ever read the book of Romans? D’ya ever see the opening scenes of Les Miserables? Ever been to an AA meeting?

Ramon, Age 14, on Santa’s Lap
Santa: Kid, aren’t you a little old for Santa?
Ramon: Shut up and ask me what I want for Christmas. My parents think it’s adorable that I still believe in Santa Claus, so don’t blow this for me. I get a lot more loot this way.

There’s just some things that can’t be anticipated and taught in Santa School.

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin
(www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at ramonpresson@gmail.com.

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