Why Santa Claus needed schooling in 1980

Wearing the beard properly and knowing the names of the reindeer were just two of the on-the-job skills Santa Claus needed over 40 years ago.

It took effort to become a convincing jolly old elf

"You got me," said a Santa Claus who could name only Rudolph, Comet and Vixen among his reindeer. (The National/CBC Archives)

Wearing that signature snowy beard properly and knowing the names if the reindeer that pull the sleigh are just two of the on-the-job skills Santa Claus should have.

Luckily for Santa's helpers of seasons past, there was a school for that.   

In December 1980, host Hana Gartner of CBC's Take 30 absorbed a day of instruction at Santa Clones, a training program for would-be St. Nicks she said was held on the "outskirts of North York."

With a fire roaring in a fireplace nearby, instructor Steve Hodgins had tips for those aspiring to a role as the man in red, whether it was to be at a mall or an office holiday party.

'Right down in the belly'

Ho-ho-how to be Santa Claus

41 years ago
Would-be St. Nicks learn tips of the trade at a Santa school in 1980. 2:20

"You have to remember: keep the beard tucked up high to the nose, just so that everything is covered," said Hodgins. "And the wig down far enough so that your eyebrows are covered."

Among Hodgins' other tips: keep Santa's gloves "nice and white" and the suit "groomed very well."

"The ho-ho-hos are very important," Hodgins told his class. "Because that lets everyone know you're a jolly gentleman."'

A would-be Santa Claus tries out St. Nick's signature sound at the Santa Clones workshop. (Take 30/CBC Archives)

He encouraged students, one by one, to try speaking Santa's classic slogan from "right down in the belly."

"Ho-ho-ho," said the first student, repeating it with Hodgins's encouragement. Another, who wore a Santa suit but not the beard, said he was concerned he'd "scare the kids" if his greeting was too loud.

"You have to watch that," acknowledged Hodgins. "But just give us a little more, from the belly." 

Reindeer names 

A game of reindeer names

43 years ago
What kind of Santa Claus can't remember the names of the crew that pulls the sleigh on Christmas Eve? 1:57

In 1978, on CBC's The National, reporter Michael Vaughan identified another important part of being Santa Claus: knowing the names of the reindeer who pulled the sleigh.

In his introduction, host Knowlton Nash suggested Santa had so much to remember in the days before Christmas, it was "hard to keep track of anything."

When a store Santa told Vaughan his plan was to "go up to the North Pole and get the reindeer all ready," Vaughan asked him to name those reindeer.

'Jim and Trixie'?

"There's Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, there's Comet and Vixen ... well, you got me," he said.

Elsewhere, Santa said the question posed a "monumental problem."

"One of them is Daisy, and the other one is Tom," explained another jolly, but inaccurate, old elf. "And the last two ... Jim and Trixie."

Fortunately, Nash knew the correct answer.

"For the benefit of Santas everywhere, the names are Dasher, Dancer, Comet and Vixen, Cupid, Prander, Donner and Blitzen." he said before signing off for the night.

Proper beard placement was important to make a convincing Santa Claus. (The National/CBC Archives)

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