by Dan Gibson
The LA Times wins a prize for a story about Santa Claus school in Midland, Michigan that manages to be delightful and reflective of how much life has changed over time.
That makes it crucial for Santa to be prepared for anything, from the mom who wants to sit on his knee (gently dissuade her) to the children who want to know everything about Santa's reindeer. Santa must know all their names and Rudolph's age — he turned 72 this year. He must know the history of St. Nicholas, the words to favorite holiday songs and poems, and how to spin Christmas tales and descriptions of the North Pole off the top of his head. He must learn to say "Merry Christmas" in sign language...
Class extended far beyond how to behave in the big chair.
A fitness trainer led a rigorous workout of jumping jacks, stretches and push-ups, all to prevent cramping and soreness after hours in Santa's chair. Luke McBride, a Santa working major resorts in Miami and the Bahamas, demonstrated how to apply blush high on the cheeks to get that wind-blown, just-off-the-sleigh look. Davenport, the "attorney Santa," advised them to wear white gloves to keep their hands highly visible, to lessen the chance of molestation accusations.
"You gentlemen, just by being Santa Claus, are under the highest scrutiny," he said sternly. "You do not want to leave a child with the memory of Santa hitting on mom."