Anyone can buy a gift but it takes more than money to be a real Santa Claus. As we walk the streets and salute the army of Holiday soldiers with marching orders to spread cheer, have you ever stopped to ask what it takes to be a true Santa?
“You have no idea how much power you have when you put on that suit,” says Joseph B. Carroll, aka Jo-Joe, a professional Santa with over three decades of entertainment experience under his brass belt.
“It makes me so happy. I float for days on Santa Claus experiences. I’ve spent 35 years never regretting going to work. I get paid to play with kids. It’s all about smiles and you’re a bright spot.”
Joe stumbled upon his lifetime love in his early 20s when he was working at a clothing store. The Santa on duty hired by the Chamber of Commerce went home early and Joe, armed with the courage of a few peach brandies, donned the suit and filled in.
“I put the suit on to finish up his shift and I had so much fun that on Christmas Eve I went around the whole neighborhood [as Santa]. It became something I just loved doing.”
After his career as a high school conflict counselor ended, Joe looked for a way to still make a difference.
“Now when I go to a party I’m the man.”
So whether you looking to be the festive center piece of the office holiday party or want to help make photographic memories for a group of kids, here are 12 tips for being the best Santa Claus ever.
“I carry performers insurance. It covers up to $2 Mill in liability. There are professional vetting services where if you do mall work they do a background check, etc. [Get] Anything you can present to show that your’e a safe performer. I also did a Santa Claus workshop for two days and got a certificate.”
“I eat breakfast bars before hand, but don’t eat when you’re dressed. Never break character. Bring a santa survival kit. Water, wipes, aspirin and Tums.”
10. Be Discreet.
“Never arrive in your own car. I park in the far parking lot, get dressed and then my helper drove my car to the affair. When the kids ask where your reindeer are just say they aren’t allowed on the premises. I usually don’t drive with my beard but, I’ve never gotten a ticket when I’m pulled over in my Santa Suit. How are you gonna give Santa a ticket? If you can’t just give Santa a warning you’ll get coal in your stocking.”
“Get rid of the spats and buy the real boots from a store and get rid of the belt and buy a real belt.
Those are the little things that really make it special– the extra touches. Have different looks. I do nursing homes and I have a Victorian Santa suit. It’s got a cape and snowflakes. I wear that to the nursing homes. I’m looking to get a red robe. Then you have three looks.”
8. The Beard
“Use theatrical beards. A one peace beard is not a good look because when you talk the whole thing moves. I found an animal hair Yak beard for $500. I compete with real beard Santa Clauses for country clubs. I [worked] a few couple in high end places. I put deodorant on my face before I glue my beard so it doesn’t sweat. If they ask to pull your beard say you’ll cry and the kid stops.
Real beard Santa’s came in to the workshop with multicolored beards. They start bleaching them out from October. Not everybody’s beard turns white at the same time. So they bleach it out.”
7. Getting The Shot
“You have five seconds to get the photo of a baby so to make the most of the moment, put the baby on the side and let him watch and let him see that everybody else is doing it first. Or try not to get the kid to look directly at me…put the baby on the outside of you away from me so your body is between me and the baby. You sit on the armrest and you get no crying baby. [You can also] Sit the whole family down in the Santa chair and then I sneak around behind the chair and give a big “ho-ho-ho” and that’s a picture and the baby is not crying.”
6. Taking Breaks
“Once you sit in that chair you’re glued. Any time a line forms you’re kind of frozen. You use excuses like you gotta check on the reindeer. Or a ‘I gotta call from Mr.s Clause, I think she found your present.’
Get up and walk the crowd. Go and greet the line, warm up and meet the kids. Get a good look at any crying babies you’d need to be ready for. It gets you out of your chair and gets you comfortable. When you come back you’re more refreshed.”
5. Dealing With Skeptics
“The older kids say I don’t believe in Santa. So I lean over and tell them that the longer you believe in santa the better your presents will be. The moment you stop believing you start getting clothes and socks. You don’t have to believe in me but you do better at Christmas if you do. When the older kids come have them yell out the most expensive present they can think of so it gives them some leverage for being embarrassed.”
4. Temperament. How do you keep your cool?
“That’s why I’m a really good Santa, I have that patience. I work with special needs children and conflict resolution. So sticking a camera in my face won’t annoy me.”
3. Keep It Professional
“Don’t get yourself in trouble. Hands must always be in the picture. When I’m working with a professional photo person I tell them if you don’t see my hands in my picture retake it. You gotta be careful. I ask parents to lift big kids onto my lap. Control your ho-ho-hos. When they start getting closer to you notch it down so you don’t scare anybody. Ask the kids questions, how old they are etc.”
2. “But Santa..I didn’t get what I wanted last year!”
“I’ve never gotten that question but it came up at the workshop. You never address the question because there is no right answer. So you say ‘We’ll really work hard to get you want you want this year.’ In an average photo line situation you’ve got 30 sec to two minutes, so a couple of quick, sharp answers will get you over. It doesn’t matter what your answer is because they didn’t get what they want. You don’t have any control over what goes under that tree. It’s about the parent. I make sure parents know…I put it on them.”
1. Love Your Job
“It’s the most enjoyable job ever. I am Santa. When the season starts I become Santa. You become the character and I stay in character for the whole season if I can. You have to assume the role. The best Santa’s don’t break character. You keep the “jollys” and the “ho-ho-hos.” If you believe then they believe. It’s all about believing. It is a job for some people but it’s fun. For the hours you do this you see the world through the eyes of kids.”
Joseph B. Carroll is a family entertainer who does clowning, twisting and magic. During the holiday seasons he is also a Santa Claus. You can contact him at joebcarroll2000[at]yahoo.com