Santas learn all the names of their reindeer and which toys are the most in demand in any given year.
They ride a steam-powered locomotive to get a feel for what it must be like to take the Polar Express to the North Pole. They even sit on a pile of coal.
“All those Santas were collecting coal for the bad kids,” Valent says.
The training can pay off. There are amateurs, yes, among the student Santas. They will take what they’ve learned to local churches and schools.
But, there are also professionals who charge appearance fees and make extra money during the holidays.
Valent says whatever the students’ motives for attending his school, the goal is the same – to teach them how to answer all of the tricky questions children will ask.
Especially, the biggest one: ‘Are you the real Santa?’
Valent hopes his students respond: “I’m the spirit of Christmas. I stand for love and giving.”