Back around the turn of the century, I worked for a couple of Silicon Valley companies that were trying to sell videophones to consumers. One of the clever marketing programs we put in place to promote our product and demonstrate use cases was to offer customers free video calls with Santa Claus at the North Pole (a decorated cubicle in the office).
It was a highly successful program and the companies earned a lot of recognition and goodwill — especially after engaging with children’s hospitals during the holiday season to give young patients the experience of seeing and interacting with Santa at the North Pole workshop.
For a couple of holiday seasons, when the Marketing budget was cut and we didn’t have the money to hire professional actors, I even donned the gay apparel and played the role of Santa Claus— the hardest part in the world to play — I kid you not. It’s hard to play Santa because it’s so easy to screw up. You DO NOT want to screw up Santa Claus.
I wrote a blog about my experiences when I played Santa for my children when they were young, for my videophone employers, and for delightful Filipinos in a shantytown in Manila. Check it out.
Here are my top recommendations for how to be successful playing Santa Claus:
- As Santa Claus, you must ALWAYS project a personality that makes you the biggest, happiest, and wisest person in the room. This is very hard to do for an extended period of time.
- Your Santa Claus must radiate goodwill and never say or do anything negative, inappropriate, sexist, or that can be misinterpreted. Use Mr. Rogers as your guide. In other words, be a mensch.
- You must not scrimp on the quality of your Santa Claus costume. Nothing is lamer than Santa wearing a MAGA baseball hat backwards, a red short-sleeved T-shirt with a “belly” made-up of stuffed animals, distressed blue jeans, dirty work boots, and a beard made of bubble-wrap.
- Your Santa Claus must avoid making promises that a child’s parents can’t keep. This is hard because you don’t want to say no to a child. When a child asked me for something specific, I would say, “Well, I’ll try” or “I will do my best.”
- Your Santa Claus must be clean and tidy looking, and not smell bad. Please use breath mints and deodorant. And, of course, a mask during these pandemic times.
- Your Santa Claus must not overstay his welcome. The longer you stay the more the “magic” seeps away.
- Your Santa Claus must try to use the children’s first names. If you can’t remember, didn’t hear it, or can’t pronounce it, then use an endearment like “buddy” or “darling” or “my friend.”
- Your Santa Claus must be prepared to tell well-known holiday stories and sing Christmas carols, especially “Rudolph, the Red-nose Reindeer.” If you don’t know the words, learn them or you’ll be the lamest Kris Kringle ever.
Playing Santa ain’t easy but it’s very rewarding if you do it right. Good luck, my friend. Happy Holidays!