The best Santas in the United States attend this school to hone their craft

In case your kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews ask where Santa got his skills, there’s a real answer: Midland, Michigan.

Declared the “Harvard of Santa schools,” by founder Tom Valent, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School trains full-bearded men in the art of Christmas. Aspiring Santas can learn everything from carpentry and toy trends to Christmas carols, for $415 for a four-day course.

“You must set high standards for yourself, both in terms of appearance and behavior,” Valent tells Quartz during basic training. “It’s about children. They notice everything from hair in your ears, breath and the details of the costume.”

In case you were wondering how the gift-delivery system works with different time zones around the world. (Axel Öberg)
(L) Paul Akert from Milwauke, Wisconsin is at the Santa School for the first time, after being told he would make a good Santa. (R) Doug Dodge from Burlington, Massachusetts, has been a professional Santa for 15 years. (Axel Öberg)
Some Santas are more conservative than others. (Axel Öberg)
Santa student Bruce Kotowichand says: “I can meet kids who have it tough. I help them to remember better times and give them hope, no matter what philosophy or what religion they belong to.” (Axel Öberg)
Beard styling is an essential Santa skill. Some use glitter spray to make their beards “frosty.” (Axel Öberg)
The school has been in operation since 1937. (Axel Öberg)
(L) Paul Akert in civilian clothes. (R) Dave Becherer of Madison Illionois, has been a professional Santa for 10 years. (Axel Öberg)
Course topics include resume writing and how to file taxes as a professional Santa. (Axel Öberg)
Both Mr. and Mrs. Clauses can attend. (Axel Öberg)
Headmaster and founder Tom Valent, wearing what he describes as a traditional German Santa outfit. (Axel Öberg)
The school has real reindeers for educational purposes.
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