According to legend, the original Santa was a kindly monk named Nicholas. He was born around AD 280 and did good works in what is now Turkey. Today, Santa is known worldwide as the North Pole-living, reindeer-driving, present-giving, chubby chuckler in red, who squeezes down a zillion chimneys on Christmas Eve. Even when you've got the beard and hat, playing such a big character can seem a daunting prospect but with a little effort you too can be a very merry Father Christmas.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Santa outfit
- White eyebrow stick
- Print-outs of "The Night Before Christmas"
- Small gifts
Learn the names of the children you will meet, if you can. Find out which toys are in demand. Work out answers to tricky questions, such as: "We haven't got a chimney, how will you get in on Christmas Eve?" A good stock answer is: "I'll get an elf to do a spell. It's what they're for."
Ask whether or not you will need a criminal background check, if you are playing Santa at a public event. Such a check can provide peace-of-mind for parents and it's free-of-charge for volunteers (see Resources).
Rehearse your big Santa laugh before you're called upon to do it in public. Also rehearse your rolling Santa walk, with your shoulders well back and your hands resting on your belly.
Memorise some jokes on a Christmassy theme. This gives you something to say when meeting tongue-tied children. If you're stuck for material, follow the links in the Resources section of this article to see a selection of Christmas jokes.
Buy or hire a Santa suit and beard that both fit comfortably. Get the best quality you can, as a convincing suit makes all the difference. Redden your nose and cheeks with rouge. Touch up your brows with a white eyebrow stick.
Push a large cushion under your waistband, just before you make your entrance. Even if you're built on comfortable lines yourself, Santa can never be too round. A thin, scrawny Santa will always disappoint, so err on the side of caution.
Bound into the room with a loud, "Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!" Tell your best joke in jovial tones. Sit yourself down and drop your voice to a whisper for your next joke. Keep your voice quiet and gentle for the rest of the visit. Your big, bold entrance establishes your character, while your softer tones help reassure more timid children.
Stay in character. Don't slip away from the kids for an "off duty" drink or a smoke: someone is bound to catch you with your beard down. When talking to the children, mention Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Mrs Claus and the Elves. Don't make specific promises about presents, but encourage children to whisper their wishes to their parents.
Spend just a brief moment with each child. Some children love Santa and will have no qualms about meeting him, while others might be frightened of the beardy stranger. Let children come to you one-by-one, along with their parents. Have a place for the child to sit next to you, rather than on your knee, so you don't invade anyone's personal space.
Hand out copies of Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem of 1822, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (see Resources). Lead the party guests in reciting the poem, before handing out your presents.
Playing the part
Tips and warnings
- If you're nervous about taking the lead as Santa, recruit friends or relatives to play supporting roles as elves, fairies or reindeer.
- Keep your visit brief, so the kids don't have time to penetrate your disguise.
- Don't wear your watch. It doesn't fit with Santa's timeless personal.
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- History.com: Santa Claus
- Forbes: What are the keys to playing a good Santa Claus at a children’s party?
- Christmas Celebrations: How to dress up and play Santa Claus
- BBC News: School for Santas – how to be Father Christmas
- The Independent: Back to Santa school – what does it take to be a department store Father Christmas?
- Santa Claus Loves Christmas: Creating a visit from Santa Claus
- Mail Online: Bad Santa – grumpy Father Christmas gets the heave-ho for making children cry
- Mail Online: Meet Britain’s longest-serving Santa
- Ask the Police: Are there any regulations as to who can play Father Christmas?