“To say there is no Santa Claus is the most erroneous statement in the world. Santa Claus is a thought that is passed from generation to generation. After time this thought takes on a human form. Maybe if all children and adults understand the symbolism of this thought we can actually attain Peace on Earth and good will to men everywhere.” – Charles W Howard
Image : shutterstock
I believe in Santa Claus. It’s a figment of our hope, a physical manifestation of the same. Fiction or reality, the idea of a fat, jolly man sleighing around with a sack full of gifts is enough to keep children on their best toes and adults, on their most creative ones themselves.
Santa Claus and his kingdom represent an idea of family, togetherness, and a whole lot of festivity, and this is one sentiment, which the sceptic and the dreamer will both agree to. But the idea of an unseen Santa Claus, although adding to the air of mystery around his image, isn’t enough to keep the kids excited for Christmas. Sometimes, you need three or four of them parading around your neighbourhood to kick in the festive season!
To turn this innocuous plan into a sparkling reality, one man took it upon himself to give the excited children and their equally amused parents the magic of Santa. Charles W Howard, an American actor and teacher, had several years of experience in dealing with impatient toddlers, and he also knew how to get their attention.
In 1937, he established the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, the first, oldest, and continually-run Santa school in the world. Initially, the school actively ran near Rochester in Albion, New York, hometown of Charles Howard.
Born into a family who encouraged his creative, if slightly eccentric, habits, Howard first assumed the role of Santa Claus as a fourth-grader. Winning over the sceptical hearts of his fellow classmates, he was voted to the role by popular consensus throughout school, something that carried on for the rest of his life. His role as everyone’s favourite Santa Claus grew to such an extent that he soon became one of the most sought-after Santas in the area, and then the whole nation. In fact, from 1948 to 1965, he was the featured Santa Claus in the Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.
With his growing popularity in this image and upon the suggestion of a local journalist, he established the school in 1937, at a time when building such an unconventional institution was quite unheard of. He began the classes by teaching out of his home till 1940, when he opened up a ‘Christmas Park’. When it was first opened, it had only three rides and a petting zoo. But at the time, considering the lack of high-end facilities or theme-parks, it was everything the children and their parents could have asked for. The individuals who would enrol themselves for the course would then have ‘practical training’ by getting to interact with the children who visited the parks on a regular basis.
Charles Howard passed away in 1966 near his home in Albion. After this, the park, which had begun attracting about 80,000 visitors on a yearly basis, shut down and the school itself was moved. Today, it runs under the control of a married couple – Tom and Holly Valent, who took over the reins of the school in 1987.
While Tom may have the words ‘civil engineer’ as well as ‘President and CEO of Gerace Construction’ on his resume, his interests have always strayed to toy-making, wood-carving and building. This works great in the animations and hand-carvings that are displayed in the current Santa school and workshop. Today, it is situated in Midland, Michigan, and every year over 200 men and women from around the world seek application into this school.
Applicants have to fill out an application online and submit it. Once it has been reviewed and accepted, and applicants have paid to reserve their spot, the school will then send out an email regarding the curriculum, noting the classes and workshops they will have to attend over the course of three days.
This year, the course ran from the 18 November to 20 November, containing classes that taught everything from the History of Saint Nicholas to reindeer habits, according to Business Insider.
Ho Ho Ho indeed!