- Courtesy of Jim Manning
After talking with professional Santa Claus Jim Manning about what the job entails, one thing becomes abundantly clear: you have to have a lot of patience to play Santa for a living.
Because, let’s be honest – people can be pretty terrible, and you deal with a lot of people in this line of work.
“Anybody can put on a suit and become Santa, but most people shouldn’t be Santa,” Manning tells Business Insider. “You have to have a disposition for it, and you have to love kids. Not just the cute 4-year-olds who sit on your lap and give you a big smile, but you have to love the kid who’s 2 years old and screaming and Mom looks like she’s about to go nuts. You still have to love them and make sure they have a good experience.”
But while dealing with screaming kids is one thing, Manning says, they’re not the most challenging part of the job.
“With the exception of very, very few really challenging kids, the kids are never usually the tough part. The tough part is often the parents,” Manning says. Here’s why:
Parents often treat him like an inanimate object
Especially when their child is scared and they say, “Oh, don’t you want to sit with Santa?” The fact that you’re ignoring me doesn’t help. The moms who talk to me and then talk to their child, their child is 10 times more likely to visit with me than a mom who treats me as an inanimate object and shoves them on my lap.
They tend to miss the point of visiting with Santa
Parents are also often so determined to get the photo that they miss the moment. Especially when a child’s 3 or 4, those moments are gold. Give the phone or camera to somebody else and just watch your child. It’s pretty darn sweet when they go from being scared of Santa to visiting with me to maybe even sitting on my knee.
Their impatience can ruin the moment
And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve coaxed that child up to visit with me, and they’re just about to sit on my lap on their own when Mom or Dad swoops in and says, “Take the picture. Other people are waiting.” Other people can wait. And now the child starts crying and fighting me and it’s just all sorts of bad.
They sometimes kill the joy
I’ll read “The Night Before Christmas” and the kids are all listening, and the parents are all talking so loud that the kids can’t hear the story. Seriously guys? For five minutes go play on your phones in the other room if you don’t want be present for this.
And a select few get too handsy
Sometimes people feel it’s appropriate to put their hands on Santa Claus – it’s not. If you want to ask me if you can tug my beard you’re very welcome to do so. If you’re trying to do something that Mrs. Claus wouldn’t like, then go visit another Santa who’s OK with that kind of thing.
At the end of the day, Manning says Santa’s role is to bring love and joy to everyone.
“To me, Santa Claus is so important. He brings toys, but it’s bigger than that,” Manning says. “Santa Claus reminds us to be kind to one another, he reminds us that it’s love – that’s the important thing, that we’re showing love for each other and for our family and friends.”
The best thing parents can do is let him do his job.