Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

U.S.

Ho-ho-Howard: 100-plus prospective Kris Kringles attend C.W. Howard Santa school in Michigan

  • 269bddbf86a17e29450f6a70670021f9.jpg

    In Nov. 29, 2013 photo taken from video, Ava Moser, 2, touches "Santa" Cliff Snider's mustache as her brother Landon, 5, looks on in Raleigh, N.C. Snider began studying how to be Santa in 1996 and thinks children deserve as authentic an experience as he can give them. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) (The Associated Press)

  • aec45b7b86a17e29450f6a706700604b.jpg

    In Nov. 29, 2013 photo taken from video, the "Nice Book" sits on a table as a little girl tells "Santa" Cliff Snider what she wants for Christmas in Raleigh, N.C. The High Point, N.C., man has been going to the C.W. Howard School since 1996 and is in the Santa Claus Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) (The Associated Press)

  • fce30da986a17e29450f6a7067003bd3.jpg

    In Nov. 29, 2013 photo taken from video, siblings Maddie, 5, Mackenzie, 15, and Caleb Bunn, 18, from Rocky Mount, N.C., pose for a photo with "Santa" Cliff Snider at the Christmas Carousel show in Raleigh, N.C. Caleb is graduating from high school this year, and his mother says he agreed to pose for one last photo with Santa. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) (The Associated Press)

  • 862a393286a27e29450f6a706700b01c.jpg

    In Nov. 29, 2013 photo taken from video, a gold Santa Claus ring shines on the hand of "Santa" Cliff Snider during the Christmas Carousel show in Raleigh, N.C. The High Point, N.C., man has trained for nearly 20 years to give children the most authentic Santa experience possible. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) (The Associated Press)

  • e965263286a27e29450f6a706700a684.jpg

    In Nov. 29, 2013 photo taken from video, Ava Moser, 2, chews on a candy cane after visiting with "Santa" Cliff Snider at the Christmas Carousel show in Raleigh, N.C. The Clayton, N.C., girl asked Santa for a Barbie and princess dress-up clothes. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) (The Associated Press)

Where does Santa Claus learn to chortle "Ho, ho, ho!" and listen to the wishes of children all over the world?

He goes to Santa School.

Each year at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, dozens of prospective St. Nicks come to learn the art of being Santa. They are given instruction on the finer points of makeup, wardrobe, sign language and even reindeer care.

Now, the Santa army is deployed all over the world, just in time for Christmas.

Cliff Snider was among the 100-plus Santas and Mrs. Clauses who comprised this year's class of the Midland, Mich., school. He's back in North Carolina now, making his usual rounds, including a recent meet-and-greet in Raleigh.

Sitting in his high-backed Santa chair, Snider had the Moser kids on his lap — Landon, 5, and Ava, 2.

Ava stared in amazement at his white mustache and beard, glistening after a light coating of glitter spray that Snider tells kids is frost.

"You can touch it. You want to feel it?" Snider asked the little girl.

"Yeah," she said sticking her right index finger just under his nose, before quickly looking away as her mother, Virginia, laughed.

"It's real, isn't it?" he said, smiling.

Snider has portrayed Santa Claus since 1962, but when he made his first trip to Midland about 30 years later, he was more than a little nervous.

"When I saw all the other Santas there and the Mrs. Clauses, I was sort of overwhelmed by the whole thing," he said. "Tom Valent, the director of the school, told me something that I never will forget.

"I told him, I said, 'Tom, I'm not sure that I'll measure up to these guys,' and he said, 'Cliff, you remember that when you go back to High Point, North Carolina, you're Santa Claus. You be the very best Santa Claus that you can be.'"

Some at this year's three-day seminar were first-timers, but quite a few Santas were, as Snider calls them, "returning alumni."

Doug Dodge, a bespectacled, white-bearded Santa from Burlington, Mass., made his second appearance at the Howard school.

"It's an awesome responsibility, and you've got to portray your Santa (with) honesty, integrity," he said following a session on Santa storytelling.

Before that, Dodge and his cohorts filled a hotel ballroom to hear a talk from an accountant on best tax practices, because, after all, Santa must report to the Internal Revenue Service.

Other topics included the history of Santa, resume writing and techniques designed to help them nab the perfect Santa gig.

Tuition is $425 for new students and $395 for returnees. New Mr. and Mrs. Clauses who attend together are eligible for a combo price of $835 while returning couples pay $750.

Paul Headley, a business owner from Hamilton, Ind., came along with his Mrs. Claus.

"You just learn every time you come up here," said Headley, who makes Santa appearances back home at schools, senior centers and the occasional Notre Dame basketball game.

Valent, who is an engineer and executive at a construction company, first came to the nonprofit school as a student in the 1970s, when its annual sessions were held in nearby Bay City.

Charles W. Howard founded the school in 1937. It later moved to Michigan from New York state and has been run since 1987 by Valent and his wife, Holly, in Midland, about 100 miles north of Detroit.

"We've been given a great gift — to be allowed to portray the image of Santa Claus," Valent said shortly after giving the class a few pointers on interacting with children. "We can't teach people everything there is to know about Santa Claus in this short time, but we can just throw things out there and develop their interests and they'll be thinking about it for a long time."

Snider gets so much out of it that he has gone back a half-dozen times.

"The heart of Santa resides in the Santa School at Midland," he said. "So we come back at often as we can for the fellowship ... to compare notes and get ready for the new season."

___

Online:

http://www.santaclausschool.com

___

AP National Writer Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.

___

Mike Householder can be reached at mhouseholder@ap.org and http://twitter.com/mikehouseholder

Bank Rates

Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
30 Y Fixed Graph 4.17% dw 4.24%  
15 Y Fixed Graph 3.26% dw 3.30%  
30 Y Fixed Jumbo Graph 4.58% dw 4.66%  
5/1 ARM Graph 3.33% dw 3.42%  
5/1 Jumbo ARM Graph 3.73% dw 3.88%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
$30K HELOC Graph 4.29% -- 4.29%  
$50K HELOC Graph 4.04% -- 4.04%  
$30K Loan Graph 5.09% -- 5.09%  
$50K Loan Graph 4.52% -- 4.52%  
$75K Loan Graph 4.52% -- 4.52%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
36 M New Graph 2.93% -- 2.93%  
36 M Used Graph 3.46% dw 3.47%  
48 M New Graph 3.22% -- 3.22%  
48 M Used Graph 2.99% up 2.98%  
60 M New Graph 3.24% -- 3.24%  
Loan Type Graph Yield +/- Last Week
6 month Graph 0.35% -- 0.35%  
1 yr Graph 0.69% -- 0.68%  
5 yr Graph 1.39% -- 1.39%