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Five minutes with Santa's head elf

The “Head Elf” at Canada’s top Santa School (yes, they have a school) makes a list of what it takes to be a stellar St. Nick.

The “Head Elf” at Canada’s top Santa School (yes, they have a school) makes a list of what it takes to be a stellar St. Nick.

Why would someone enrol in Santa School?
The two most common reasons are that people want to volunteer for organizations, or want to have a part-time job, oftentimes after retirement.

What do you teach in class?
You’ve got one of the biggest icons in North America, so it takes a lot more than just putting on a cotton beard and saying, “Ho ho ho.” We teach them how to speak, how to walk, how to enter and exit, how to care for their beards. And then, once the children are sitting on their knees, there are sometimes tough questions thrown at them so we want to make sure they can deal with that. Because not every child’s life is really wonderful and we want to make sure the children aren’t misled, that they have a good experience.

That’s far more involved than people would think.
It’s far more involved. Because Santa is such a big part of people’s holiday celebrations, people have been dressing up as Santa at parties. And as well-meaning as that is, it’s usually the president of the company or somebody’s dad and they just put on an elastic-secured beard. That’s been part of the downfall in people not thinking Santa’s real, when you and I both know he’s real. If it’s not done well, it loses some of the magic.

You took over the school from Victor Nevada, who was considered the best Santa in the country. What made him so special?
He had a lot of empathy. He didn’t have a very good childhood himself so I think he tried to recreate one for other kids. Over and above that he was a very good actor. And he also had that little twinkle in his eye — not everybody has that.

Is that what you try to impart to your Santas?
Some is innate but most things can be taught. Still, the right attitude has to be in place.

Have you ever had students who just couldn’t quite get it?
We did have one fellow who found himself an elf through the whole experience, so it’s not like he was demoted, but he was really a much better elf than Santa!

Photo caption:
Calgarian Jennifer Andrews’ unbridled enthusiasm for Christmas made her the natural choice to head the country’s top Santa School, after the passing of founder Victor Nevada. To learn more about her program, go to santaschool.com.

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