Being Santa Is A Weighty Job

 By Jordan Graham and Samantha Tatro,  Boston Herald

 Sunday, December 9, 2012

Santas get cried at, wet on and kicked — so have a little sympathy for the big guy in red, said professional Clauses who weighed in after news of a grumpy Maine mall St. Nick went viral last week.

“It’s a very difficult job. It’s a pressure job,” said Santa Tim Connaghan, who runs the International University of Santa Claus, based in California, noting mall Santas are routinely sneezed on, coughed at and have their beards pulled, among other indignities. “None of us know until we sit in that man’s chair.”

The Maine Mall in Portland parted ways with its Santa last week after Facebook complaints by customers that the Santa was rude to a 6-year-old and “very grumpy.”

Jolliness is mandatory, but it may be tough when you’re a mall Santa, which often entails 11-hour days and a constant stream of people, said Santa Jim Manning of the South End.

“My initial reaction was, I’ve seen a lot of grumpy Santas,” he said. “I’ve had kids pull on my hat and different things. Sometimes you have to walk away — ‘Santa’s gonna go feed the reindeer for five minutes.’ ”

Merriment can take preparation, said Santa Wendell Ritchie of Bright Nights in Springfield.

“I listen to Christmas music in the car on my way, think good thoughts, and try and handle myself in a proper manner,” he said.

At CambridgeSide Galleria yesterday — where shoppers described Santa as “fantastic” — there was sympathy for Mr. Kringle.

“Everyone is entitled to a bad day,” said Rosario Contino, 32, of Boston who was bringing his 6-month-old son to see St. Nick. Contino said he would be disappointed if Santa was not in a good mood, but could empathize. “It’s none of my business why he’s grumpy.”

Stacie Marino, 33, of Waltham, mom of a 14-month-old, was less forgiving.

“It could be difficult to be jolly, but it’s what they sign up for,” she said. “There are expectations and it’s a given that being happy is one.”

 

Connaghan said he teaches his student Clauses the best ways to be in a good mood, including exercise, eating well and getting plenty of sleep.

“It’s not just sitting there and giving a few ‘ho ho hos,’ ” he said. “You’re an ideal, you need to live up to it as best you can.”

And for most Santas, the gig is worth the kicking, the beard-pulling, the commute to the North Pole.

“Have I ever had a bad day as Santa? The answer is no,” Manning said “I get to make people happy for a living, and that’s pretty darn awesome.”

 Kris Kringle’s season’s beatings

Being Santa isn’t easy, and International University of Santa Claus has the numbers to back it up. The university surveyed 342 Kris Kringles across the country to see just how tough their jobs are.

  •     30 percent of mall Santas have more than 100 children sit on their laps every day.
  •     44.3 percent are sneezed or coughed on, as many as 15 times per day.
  •     28 percent of Santas have been “wet on” by a child.
  •     Every respondent said they have, at one time or another, had a crying baby in their lap.
  •     93 percent of the Santas have had their beard pulled to see if it is real. They reported that of the “pullees,” 50.6 percent were kids. The remaining 42.6 percent were adults.
  •     More than 55 percent of Santas have children step on their boots 1 to 10 times a day.
  •     61.4 percent of Santas see camera “flash” spots more than 25 times a day.
  •     More than 45 percent have up to 10 children try to take their glasses off each day.
  •     82.2 percent wish they had a fan.

– JORDAN GRAHAM