[Guest post by DRJ]
It’s tough to be Santa Claus these days:
“Life is not so jolly for the 21st century Santa Claus.
He keeps his white gloved hands where parents can see them and buys liability insurance, just in case. He doesn’t ask for names or where children live — that might arouse suspicion. He’s given up the pipe, and the jelly belly might be next. And while he may bring tidings of joy, the man in the red suit endures criminal background checks like everybody else.
“A lot of people think all you gotta be is a nice old man,” says Timothy Connaghan, professional Santa instructor and president of The Kringle Group, a conglomeration of North Pole-centric businesses. “Put a suit on, sit in a chair. But you have to be politically correct.”
Today’s Kris Kringle is poked, prodded and tailored to fit our times. It’s no longer enough to show up at the mall, laugh merrily and hoist children on his lap. In fact, that job is now considered better left to parents, to avoid inappropriate touching. In mistletoed shopping malls across America, Santa Claus is watching his back.“
Aspiring Santas learn their trade at Santa University:
“Everything is choreographed in the land of Santa, down to each word and hand movement. The tricks of the trade are passed down at various Santa schools scattered across the country. Connaghan takes his academy — The International University of Santa Claus — on the road, making pit stops in different cities.
Major topics of study include how to hold children correctly, managing sticky conversations and proper care of hair and beard. Santa’s hands should be visible in all photos, Connaghan says. And he must never make promises he can’t keep.
And what if a little girl or boy confides in Santa, revealing physical abuse at home? Though it may surprise some, Santa can’t just leap off his chair and tell the police. Instead, he must enlist the help of a teacher or principal, who are protected from libel in case of false accusations, according to Trolli.”
Modern Santas are also health-conscious and environmentally friendly:
“In keeping with the anti-smoking times, the man from the North Pole put down his pipe a long time ago. Now, defying his rotund image, Santa is trying to lose weight.
“People expect Santa to be big, big, big, big,” says Ron Levine, a Santa from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., who is, in fact, Jewish. “I’m 225 to 250 pounds, so my belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly. Am I trying to lose some weight? Oh yes, every day. Because it’s necessary for my health.”
The AORBS [Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas], that alliance of bearded Santas, will stage a weigh-in this summer at its annual convention in Overland Park, Kan. Each Santa who fails to meet his weight-loss goal will pay a fee toward a charity. “The problem is the children don’t care if Santa’s fat,” Trolli says. “It’s the parents who want Santa fat.”
Santa has recognized the importance of being eco-conscious, too. Levine, billed as the “Green Santa,” is donning a suit of that color and promoting the environment at FAO Schwarz this Christmas season while promoting a new children’s book: When Santa Turned Green.”
It sounds like 21st Century Santas need that union … as well as psychological services and hazard pay.