Christmas is almost here! If you don’t believe me, just look at the displays in the back of the box stores. Trees and decorations are just waiting to be rolled out the day after Thanksgiving, if not sooner. Some people have even started their Christmas shopping. This is the time to think of Christmas and when you think of Christmas, you think of Santa.
Santa represents a lot of things to a lot of people but to kids, he’s magical. Many people remember going to the local department store or shopping mall as a kid and most have kept the tradition by doing the same with their own. Of course, that’s after you pack the kids in the car, find a parking spot and wait in a long line hoping your kid doesn’t have to go to the bathroom. Here’s an idea…why not have Santa come to you?
Santa is not just for the malls. He’s available for any event. Imagine having a Christmas party with the kids and having Santa show up? How about at your office party or community event? And we are not talking about good ole Uncle Charlie in the red outfit and the bad cologne. There are professional Santas available, just like any other entertainer.
What To Do With The Kids® contacted the professional Santas listed in our Directory of Santas along with a few others and asked them why people should hire a professional Santa and what people should know before they do.
The most obvious theme from all of their submissions is that being Santa Claus is a serious business. These men are professionals and dedicated to keeping the Santa Claus legacy alive. Tradition is a very important part of their work so that the Santa you remember as a kid is the same Santa you’ll bring your own kids to see.
A few things to consider when hiring a Santa includes:
What would you like Santa to do?
If you are looking for someone to pass out a few gifts to a couple of kids, Uncle Charlie might be your best bet. If you are looking for a Santa who can also entertain, then a professional is the way to go.
Different Santas offer different things. Some tell stories, sing, dance and even do a little magic but the one thing they all have in common is dealing with kids.
What type of training and experience does Santa have?
As we’ve mentioned already, Santa is serious business and there are seminars, programs and schools dedicated to giving professionals the skills they need to be a traditional Santa. There is even a Santa Claus Hall of Fame.
Experience is an important part of being Santa and you’ll find many who are still active after 40 or more years but that’s not to say a less experienced Santa can’t do the job. Everyone has to start somewhere so training is an important factor.
Do they look like Santa?
Being Santa is more than just renting a suit. Professional Santas will have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on their suit and the accessories that go with it. You will notice a difference between professionals and the Uncle Charlies. Real boots, belts and the most obvious, a real suit are important to a professional. The suits and accessories will be clean and neat which is important in creating an authentic Santa experience.
Real beard or not?
Many professional Santas have a real beard. In fact, there are a number of associations dedicated to “Real Bearded” Santas. A few will have an artificial beard which may be fine for your event but the beard however should be life-like in appearance and attached properly.
Insurance and Police check?
Professional entertainers of any genre carry insurance and can provide you with proof. The insurance must also apply to any other people involved in the act such as elves or a Mrs. Claus.
Just like insurance, all professional entertainers should have an annual police check. If they do not have one or it is over a year old, we don’t recommend hiring them especially if they are working with kids.
References and referrals are testimonials from past clients who have used this Santa before and it’s extremely important to contact them. The person you are contacting is not interviewing for the job so you want to keep it short and sweet. Important questions to ask are: what type of event was this Santa at; how did Santa perform; and was there anything that concerned you.
It’s also important that you offer to give your Santa a letter of recommendation or allow you to be used as a reference but only if he did a good job. It only takes a few minutes and will help not only Santa but the people who are interested in hiring him in the future.
What about Mrs. Claus and the elves?
Yes, I am well aware that this sounds like is a set-up to a punch line but adding a Mrs. Claus and/or an elf or two can really add to the Santa experience. The same questions you ask about Santa should also apply to whoever plays Mrs. Claus and the elves.
Who is the audience?
Does Santa have experience with kids, seniors, a corporate crowd or a combination of them all? Some Santas have different acts for different groups so be sure to ask them what they can offer for your specific event.
What equipment is supplied or needed?
Depending on your specific needs, Santas will most likely have everything you need. Some have an elaborate chair that is designed specifically for Santa and adds an element of realism. Some may require you to supply items such as a comfortable chair and even a secured area to use as a dressing room. Ask your potential Santa exactly what he needs and what he already has. You don’t want any last minute surprises.
Keep in mind that Santa is there to entertain and he can’t do that if he’s busy trying to organize the kids. A professional Santa will explain his act and how best to organize the audience. If Santa is to hand out gifts, he will suggest the best way to do that. It may involve having someone to get the kids lined up and another to hand the gift to Santa so that he can hand it to the kids. If Santa is to perform an act, he will require the appropriate amount of space. Keep in mind that some of the kids may get extremely excited when they see Santa so it’s important that everything is organized.
This is a subject that is hard to deal with and can put a damper on your event. Some kids, especially the older ones, and surprisingly some adults need to let everyone know that Santa isn’t real. Some parents will even encourage their kid to pull on Santa’s beard and that’s just wrong. Like anyone else, Santa should be treated with respect. Most Santas will have a great explanation about how real he is but it’s preferable if this type of conversation is avoided. Your event will be a huge success if everyone is in the Christmas spirit.
Santa is probably one of the most photographed characters (outside of Disney) you’ll ever meet. Professional Santas know how to pose and do a pretty good job getting the kids to look at the camera but there are a few things to consider.
Santa will spend time speaking with your kid and that’s a great time to take a candid photo. Santa will then ask the kid to look at the camera and that’s when you take the posed shot. Keep in mind that you can’t spend a lot of time looking for that perfect shot, especially with a crowd waiting their turn. If the kid doesn’t cooperate, don’t push it. Take them away and if it’s possible, try again later.
If you are the event organizer, you may want to consider using or even hiring an experienced photographer. The reason most mall photos look so good is because the camera they use is on a tripod, in the best possible location and has the proper lighting. Since the photos are digital, the shots can be sent to your guests by email in a matter of hours. It helps keep the event from dragging on and makes for some great photos.
If you’re not sure, ask Santa. He’s done this before.
A contract is highly recommended
Although Santa is magical, business is business and the best way to make sure that you and Santa know exactly what is expected of each other is to put it in writing. A contract will make clear to both parties when the event starts, what’s provided and what’s not, what is expected from Santa and what is expected from the organizer. Never assume anything because you know what happens when you assume…
Price is an important factor but it shouldn’t be the only one. It would be better to think of it as value for your money. Having a professional Santa at your event will most likely make it the event of the year. The kids will be in awe to meet the big guy and the parents will love the kid’s reaction. Adults will also enjoy it because he’s a timeless classic and a real professional will make it memorable for them as well. Discuss what you are expecting with Santa and find out what he can add to your event and consider the value it will add as opposed to the cost.
Book Santa now!
The Christmas season is just about to start so don’t wait too long. Many people organize Christmas parties in late November or early December so if you’re thinking of having Santa visit (and you should), you better find him now.
What To Do With The Kids® has recently introduced a Directory of Santas featuring professionals from across the United States and Canada. See for yourself at http://www.whattodowiththekids.com/santas/.