Ho-ho-homework: memorize reindeer names
Santa school instills elf etiquetteDecember 2, 1996
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Rusty Dornin
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Becoming a department store Santa is much more involved than donning a red and white suit with padding underneath. Even Santa's helpers who have authentic white beards -- or don't need the padding -- must know the proper etiquette.(382K/28 sec. Santa School QuickTime movie)
The list of "Dos" at a Santa Claus training school run by Western Staff Services, an employment agency, includes the obvious: "bathe daily and use good deodorant," as well as the intangible: "keep a twinkle in your eye."
And there are the "Don'ts," such as not making promises for baby brothers, sisters or pets. Or telling children from divorced households that mommy or daddy will come home.
Race doesn't matter
Even child abuse can become an issue. "You've got to keep your hands in sight," says one Santa school graduate.
One thing that doesn't matter is race. There are African-Americans among the jolly, mostly-white Santas the school turns out. "Color doesn't matter. It's the (Santa Claus) message," that counts, says one black Santa.
But Santas of all races must learn proper pillow placement, assuming assistance is needed at all. For some students, nature's padding is already perfect. In fact, chimneys better be pretty darn wide these days.
Santa pants, notes Santa School headmistress Jenny Zink, have gone from a waist size of 54 inches to 72 inches. "It's amazing. I think they're doing too much turkey and too many milk and cookies banquets," she says.
Other problems are of a more synthetic nature. "My beard keeps going in my mouth," says one department-store Santa who is whiskerless the rest of the year.
Some of the Santas have been playing shopping malls for 25 years, hearing many of the same wishes from new generations. "Barbie (dolls) are still a big gift," says one, adding that "Star Wars stuff is still big time."
While Santa Claus is responsible for sorting out the naughty from the nice, it appears all his helpers who've graduated from the Western Staff Services Santa school are ready to do gather his yule lists with polar aplomb.
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