Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Beyond the Beard: Santa School Offers an In-Depth Education on Becoming Claus

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Beyond the Beard: Santa School Offers an In-Depth Education on Becoming Claus

Article excerpt

Santa School: A how-to on becoming Claus

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It may seem easy to look the part of Santa Claus with the beard, red suit and rotund belly, but the owner of the Santa School says there's more to stepping into the black boots than merely mimicking his outer appearance.

Jennifer Andrews has welcomed would-be Santas from around the world to her Calgary-based school where instructors offer guidance on the art of becoming St. Nick. They also have professionally trained "Santa regional representatives" who work in Calgary and surrounding areas, as well as within North America, Europe and Asia.

"We want them all to be Santa, but they're always their own version of Santa. They're going to bring their own personality and their own backstory," said Andrews, who was recently asked to lead a training crash course for The Magic of Christmas, a Calgary charity.

"One of the things that I always teach the Santas is that I don't want any cookie-cutter Santas," she added. "I usually say I want them to be like snowflakes. They're all individual, they're all beautiful in their own way."

Santa School offers a three-day course for both novices and seasoned Santas emphasizing the importance of embodying the spirit of Claus in physical appearance and mannerisms.

Andrews said participants are taught how to care for their beards, whether they're real or of the "designer" variety. Santas also learn the importance of maintaining a large presence within a room, like crafting their grand entrance and exit and the manner in which they address people, command energy and stir excitement.

Then there's the matter of another key Santa signature: his laugh.

"There are some schools that teach that you do three 'ho, ho, hos' and then you're done. That is not correct. Nobody laughs three times. It's however long that laugh is," said Andrews.

"Sometimes it's a quizzical laugh. Sometimes it's a happy laugh. Sometimes it's a 'You've been naughty' laugh. ... We always teach them how to 'ho, ho, ho' as their laugh and we teach it to come right from their belly."

Bob Slocombe has made appearances as Santa at malls and private parties. His wife, Linda, sometimes portrays Mrs. Claus, and the couple visits a seniors home on Christmas Day.

With a curly white beard and hair flowing past his shoulders, the 66-year-old has no trouble looking the part. He recalled several instances outside of the holidays where he's been out in plain clothes and addressed as Santa.

Still, Slocombe said Santa School offered fresh perspective on his portrayal of Claus. A self-described "big man" around six-foot-four, Slocombe said he tries to be more gentle and quiet when around children to help convey that he's approachable and friendly.

"It was an education in terms of how you say things and deliver yourself both with the physical presence and hand motions and gestures as well as voice," Slocombe said in a phone interview from his farm in the foothills southwest of Calgary.

"For example, eyebrows should not be knitted together. …

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