Parenting: Picking a Perfect Santa Claus, advice for parents from Professional Santa Claus School, Susen Mesco article

Picking YOUR "Perfect" Santa Claus
by Susen Mesco, 
Master Santa Claus Trainer,
Sant-A-Grams  Since 1983!

Picking the "perfect" Santa Claus for your holiday gathering is not as easy as it sounds. ANY body can buy or rent a Santa Claus suit. Anyone can place an ad claiming to be a "Santa." Many party clowns buy a Santa suit and play" Santa during the holiday season.

YOU want and NEED the RIGHT Santa for your event.   

START EARLY. The very best Santas usually book up prime dates at the end of the previous holiday season. Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, along with Christmas eve are scarce after April prior to Christmas. Santa providers will usually still have Santas available at the last minute, since they always "save" a few Santas for just this reason on prime dates. People also cancel their events last minute, so there IS a Santa out there for you!   

Thoroughly interview your Santa provider or independent Santa, as to what they include as part of their "show" for your group. Find out their fees for any overtime. If you want Santa for 2 hours and have 30 children, know that the visits/photos will take about 40 minutes. Now you have 100 minutes where Santa should be performing and making this a memorable event for your group. Let the clowns make the balloon animals. Many Santas just assume you want them to come in, maybe read a story, visit with the children and hand out gifts. Professional Santas provide that, plus additional, quality, holiday entertainment appropriate for your group- age and size, that really makes it more fun!   

 The lowest priced Santa Claus is NOT necessarily the BEST Santa! But overpriced Santas with no entertainment value can be just as bad! Remember, professional Santas maintain their beards all year long (which is often costly at the salon) so they can work just 4-5 weeks each year! Insurances, background checks, quality costuming, Santa educational seminars, conferences they attend to hone their skills, should all be considered when selecting the right Santa for your event. In California, (hope you are sitting down,) some Santas are charging $500-1000 for a visit! In rural areas, Santas charge $75-$100 an hour.

A holiday gratuity is appropriate for your Santa IF he has truly entertained you and your guests. Santa is spending this holiday time away from his family and loved ones to be at your event. 15-20% is an appropriate tip in most cases. Let your heart & budget decide what is appropriate for your Santa!    

Ask to see a recent photo of the Santa in the outfit he will be wearing. There are numerous types of Santa outfits from the "Coca-Cola" to the Father Christmas robes, to highly stylized suits. Be sure your vision of the Santa Claus you want, walks through your door. Chat with your Santa about what type of outfit you prefer. Most Professional level Santas have 2-4 styles of Santa outfits available for you to choose from. American Events even has Coca Cola Santas, Father Christmas in white brocade, Long robed Santas and a fully sequined Santa suit (Elvis Santa) for celebrity events, parades, TV and glitz adult events!
If you are having a large or longer event, you will want to ask the Santa provider what options you have for entertainment for your group. For instance, American Events has a program called SantaFest that can be customized with elves, holiday theme party games, souvenir photos, refreshments and treats, holiday crafts, Mrs, Claus, Frosty, Rudolph, Teddy, Angels and even Petey Penguin costume characters. Live reindeer, hay wagon/sleigh rides, trackless train rides, and much more available to occupy the children until Santa arrives. When Santa does arrive, there can be a full Santa Claus show with interactive fun for your group with the entire cast of holiday characters.    

Most Santas work alone, some work with their Mrs. Claus or special elf. This is beneficial to help maintain control of groups with 12 or more children. The pricing may be a tad higher with the trained character assistant, but your experience will be much better when things are smooth and organized. An assistant who works with Santa is most beneficial to help organize and manage activities with large groups (15 or more) and those with many younger children.    
Ask your potential Santa to provide his training background. What certifications does he have? How long has it been since he has participated in recent Santa education? How often does he update his material & costuming? Who trained him? What are the credentials of the trainers? Quality training makes a huge difference in the caliber of the Santa appearing at your event.    

Most reputable Santa providers have an ANNUAL, NATIONAL BACKGROUND check done on EACH Santa they work with. This includes all 50 states and information back to the Santa's birth. Many independent Santas have a local check, such as a CBI (Colo. Bureau of Investigation). These local checks only go back 3 years in the state and only include felony convictions in that local state. A less than desirable Santa may have just moved here and he appears to have a perfectly clean record according to the CBI. Large Santa providers do not accept any background flaws in the Santas they work with. Again you may pay a bit more but you can be sure you are getting a "clean" Santa, without worry or incident.    

What insurance does the Santa have? If you are working with a Professional Santa Claus firm, they carry a policy with $2-3 million limits that will cover Santa at your event. Most independent Santas do not have this insurance.    How long has your Santa been doing your specific type of event? You'll want a Santa that is highly competent, enthusiastic, creative and fun but not so experienced that they are "stale" and bored.  

The big question... NATURAL BEARD or EMBELLISHED? With 28 years in the Santa Claus industry, I assure you that it is not the beard or the $5000 outfit that make a great Santa. Children are usually so magically overwhelmed with their anticipation of Santa Claus that they rarely can tell the difference until they are 6-8 years old. Many of the Santas with natural beards feel they do not have to work at performing or try as hard because they just look like Santa Claus and most people accept that as enough. It is NOT! These are childhood memories that can never be recaptured. A slacker Santa Claus is unacceptable in any situation! Many natural bearded Santas are very good. Most all of the fellows using the "embellished" whiskers, work 3 times as hard to make the experience a great one. So do not discount the value of an "embellished" Santa Claus. Don't judge the Santa by his whiskers! 

Spend time speaking with your Santa provider firm, so they know exactly what you are looking for... If you want a Santa to lead sing alongs- be sure Santa can sing. If you need a Santa who can ice skate- they have one! If you want Santa to read or tell a story, be sure his presentation and grammar are excellent. If you need a Santa well versed in working with adult corporate groups, find out what that Santa does that is unique for adult groups. If you need a Santa Claus for a media event, be sure he is quick witted or has the specific look you want. For a day care / school, be sure the Santa is patient with the little ones. If you have deaf children attending, be sure the Santa knows ASL. etc. 

The major benefit of working with a large, quality Santa Claus provider is that there is NO CHANCE you will be left without a Santa. Many independent Santas schedule an event but may get sick or even worse- get a higher paying event and leave you without a much anticipated Santa Claus. A provider with 10-80 Professional Santas on staff, ALWAYS HAS A BACK-UP SANTA ready in case of an emergency and can hand pick the Santa Claus is most suited for your important event. 

Susen Mesco
Founder & Director -
Professional Santa Claus School Denver
Co-Star - Becoming Santa The Movie
President, American Events & Promotions
Creator of the Original "Sant-A-Gram"


  1. Nice Blog
    Thanks for sharing... Keep sharing more
    Christian Grey


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