Beyond the obvious safeguarding checks, most primary schools are not too picky when it comes to selecting a Santa. It tends to be a job that lands on the soon-to-be-much-sat-upon lap of whoever has the figure and temperament to pull off a passing resemblance to the man himself, does not have an allergy to cheap polyester and can be persuaded to sit for hours on end in a “grotto” (a gazebo strewn with tinsel and spray snow) wearing a beard of questionable quality.
But Jennifer Andrews, dean of Canada’s prestigious Santa School – where professional training is provided to both beginner-level and more experienced Santas – believes that schools need to set their sights higher.
Here are her five tips.
1. Think beyond the traditional
The first thing Andrews would like to make clear is that Santa does not have to be an overweight, white male in their later years – anyone can bring the magic of Christmas to life for young children.
“We have trained people of many different genders and races in our school,” she says. “What matters to being a good Santa is that you have the right personality and the right heart. You have to love children.”
2. Get the Santa look
To portray Santa, you have to look the part. That means investing in a decent suit and storing it appropriately so that, from one year to the next, it doesn’t end up looking like some tatty old pyjamas.
Minor details like well-kept hair and accessories are often forgotten but are also essential. “[You have to] have the right grooming and wear the right suit with the right accessories that are well considered,” Andrews says.
3. Learn to project
Santa needs to be the centre of attention, a larger than life creation, so a booming voice in the manner of Brian Blessed is often an easy way of creating this persona. Get your Santa to practise with you – do you believe this is a person who can deliver presents across the globe in a single night?
4. Get your Santa story straight
If your Santa is going to be successful, he or she needs to have an in-depth understanding of the character and narrative of their particular version of St Nick.
“I talk about Santas being very much like snowflakes,” Andrews says. “They present with their different ideas and perceptions of who Santa is, and so they have to create that story for themselves."
5. Style it out
Andrews says that if Santa does fall over or say the wrong thing, it is important to consider the audience that such a performance or mishap is being delivered to.
“We talk about how their audience, primarily being children, are very forgiving and they want to believe in Santa. There’s no embarrassment…So just have fun with it and let it be part of the day,” she says.
Elisha Gilbertson is a student and freelance journalist
This is an edited version of an article in the 16 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.