Every September, Santa Claus School in Santa Claus, Indiana, welcomed twelve students who wanted to improve their holiday-making skills as men in the merry-red coats and hats with white beards.
Although the applications came through the U.S. mail, and they were scrutinized for the best Christmas-cheer, Clement Winter, the school’s teacher, could never be too sure what to expect on the first day of school.
The ten-week class covered all the basics and then some on how to uphold the tradition of Santa Claus. More than any other school in the country, Santa Claus School prided itself in graduating the best Santa Clauses.
“Noel, Yule, Christian, Frost, Snowden, Kris, Jack, Christopher, Michael, Gabriel, Emmanuel, and Joseph,” Clement said, taking attendance on the first day of class and checking off each student, as they raised their hand with a “Ho-ho-ho.” Looking at the class, he felt saddened at their lack of enthusiasm. It took a certain amount of gusto and Christmas values to pull off being a genuine Santa Claus. Not everyone could do it. Not one of them had on a red suit, and very few of them had white beards, Clement thought to himself.
Clement wondered if the members of the class had simply signed up for the school for the money-making ventures during the holidays. Previous years, most students had at least come with their own Santa hats.
“The first order of business will be to measure each of you for your own Santa Claus outfit,” Clement said. “So if you plan on gaining a pound or two, make sure to tell the tailor to let the pants out a bit.”
As Clement looked up to hear snoring, burping, and cursing from the students, he took radical action.
“This year we’re running class like Boot Camp,” he said, astounded that many of them had not shaved their brown stubble, and one was hiding a Vodka bottle in his bag. One of them was even picking his nose during the breaks. Another one wouldn’t turn off his cell phone and kept taking calls from his various girlfriends. A handful of them tried to budget how much money they would make during the holiday season if they kept on track, even attempting to get free gifts. On the contrary, a few of them read their Bibles openly and prayed during class, ignoring Clement altogether. “You either get yourselves to classroom by 6 a.m., or you’re gone,” he said, handing out the curriculum. As he read it aloud, the Santas-to-be sat up in their seats:
“Week One: The History of Santa Claus, Week Two: Dress like Santa, Week Three: Act like Santa, Week Four: Children skills, Week Five: Reindeer skills, Week Six: Mrs. Claus skills, Week Seven: Flying skills, Week Eight: Toy making lessons, Week Nine: Letter-writing skills, Week Ten: True meaning of Christmas.”
The next morning at 6 o’clock sharp, the fledgling Santa student group arrived half-asleep, but when Clement explained to them that they will pass a 100-question quiz tomorrow or be replaced, they woke up pretty fast.
“No one failed the test,” Clement said, the next day passing back the quizzes. Many students earned 100 percent. By the end of Week One, Santa Claus School started to look a little more like Christmastime. Some of the students had Santa decorations from other countries or posters from famous holiday films on display.
By the end of Week Two, each of the students finally had their own outfits, and only one of the Santas ripped his pants when he bent over. Those pants were immediately mended with extra padding and stitching.
“If you can’t grow out white hair and a beard, then you can always find ones that look real,” Clement taught.
As Week Three rolled around, the men had to learn to sing, talk, dance, and walk like Santa Claus.
“This will take some extra effort from those of you who are bad actors,” Clement explained in a loud voice.
Clement even taught his students Sign Language for the children who were deaf and wanted to talk to Santa.
Week Four and Week Five were not so much different, being that children skills were similar to reindeer skills: Believe Santa is real, have a lot of cheer, listen first, be tender, and give snacks at crucial times.
“During week six, learning how to interact with Mrs. Claus might be the toughest week of all,” Clement said. “Hardly anyone has figured out how to interact with Mrs. Claus in a believable way. Try to love her.”
Although Week Seven with flying lessons was more imagination than the practicality of making toys and letter-writing in Weeks Eight and Nine, Week Ten covering the true meaning of Christmas was the best.
This was the week that most of the Santa students wanted to give up. Being that none of them was “the real Santa Claus,” they weren’t sure that they could convince anyone otherwise, even if they practiced for weeks.
“You might be the only Santa Claus that anyone ever meets,” Clement emphasized. “Give it your all, especially with the children who are believing for miracles. You might be their only Christmas memory.”
By the end of the ten-week course, the twelve Santa students graduated with hopes of presenting the best of Santa Claus to the rest of the world. From the elementary schools to the malls, they were now ready.
When they started, they might have been an unruly group of bums looking for a buck at Christmas, but now they wanted more for their friends and family—a very Merry Christmas indeed.
“The heart of Santa Claus is good,” Clement cheered.” “Be the good in the world, and don’t wait for Christmas!”
Copyright 2019 Jennifer Waters