No false beard and wig for Jim! No pillow in the belly. He’s the real deal, with a degree in “Santology,” he proudly states, earned from a legitimate Santa School in Colorado.

“Remember,” Jim says, “Anybody can look like Santa, but you have to have the heart to BE Santa.

And Jim does. Even out of season, Jim exudes the air of Santa, with his flowing white hair and beard, and the twinkle in his eyes. He almost makes you believe again.

Jim came to Santa late in life

As a kid Jim didn’t have any particular affinity for Santa. Sitting on Santa’s lap? Asking for presents? Not really. He remembers his father giving him $25 to buy Christmas presents, nothing special. His father was in the aerospace industry and Jim grew up in several places in California.

Jim in his off hours.. playing Pickleball.

After high school, Jim joined the Marines and there he realized that he loved driving. But more on that later. After being discharged, he did various jobs including being a janitor, a supply manager, and working construction. What brought him to Colorado was court reporting school, and he was a court reporter for a few years until he had the urge for something new. So he decided to do what he loved and founded a limousine and private cab company, sold that, and for the last eight years Jim drives for UBER. But that is not his true passion.

Jim found his calling by accident. An UBER fare eight years ago was his inspiration. He picked up a guy who bragged he had made $500 for a few hours of work.

“Doing what?” Jim asked.

“Being Santa” the guy said.

Lightbulb! It was not just the money, but it felt right to him.

Jim grew his beard, unhooked his ponytail, looked up Santa Schools, and enrolled.

Santa is ubiquitous

Jim is not alone, he’s joined a whole club of Santas. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Santas around the world. There’s a very active Santa in Jerusalem, for example. And Santa goes by other names in many other countries, 124 different names to be exact according Santa Dan Short (  which makes sense after all. Some Santas are called Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or Sinterklass. In Iraq, he’s Baba Noel, in Greece he’s Aghios Vassilis, in Ireland he’s Daidina Nollag, in Japan, Jizo.

Santa Schools

In the US, the oldest Santa school is 80 years old. It’s the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan. What do Santa’s learn? How to “HO-HO-HO.” The etiquette of listening and talking to kids – “never promise a present.” They learn hand movements to Christmas music, a bigger than life walk, gestures, voice control, reading the crowd, and how to interact with Ms. Santa and the elves.

Being Santa is not just a one-night stand. It’s a career. Santas entertain in parades, at company and private parties, including small house parties. They sit at malls for weeks, they bring joy.

Not all Santa gigs are easy. Jim recalls one in which the father of the kids put big bags of presents outside the door and Jim was supposed to pick them up and deliver them to the delight of the children.

“The bags weighted so much I pretty much stumbled in, and my shoulders hurt for a week,” Jim said.

But the family loved it, so it was all in a night’s work for Jim.

Living the part

Santas have professional societies. The largest is the IBRBS headquartered in Phoenix, AZ (Not the North Pole!). The mission of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas (you have to live the part, and Jim does.) is to “keep Christmas magic in the hearts of children of all ages by creating an international Christmas Community.” It also promotes the joy of giving, and “supports the principles embodied in the Santa Claus Oath, the Mrs. Claus Pledge, and Santa’s Elf’s Oath.”  As you can see, being a Santa is serious business.

And Jim, is a serious Santa. He has four Santa suits, two pairs of boots with plans to buy another, three belt buckles, and even a summer Santa suit.

Basically, he has a closet full of his costumes. And he adds to it on an ongoing basis. His latest purchases were a new suit and belt. (One belt says “Believe” – in Santa, or magic?)

There’s also a lot of make-up involved – especially blush on the cheeks, Santa has to have rosy cheeks from traveling via sleigh through the sky.

Jim also has an agent who books him at various malls and parties. From Thanksgiving to New Year, Jim is on the road, to the delight of children who trust him with their wishes.

Santa Rules

Jim is adamant about Santa rules, but there is one he broke once. A girl about nine years old asked him for a very unique present. She asked that her father who was oversees call her on Christmas. Jim was very touched by this, and he was going to make an exception and call her father and tell him the girl’s wish. He asked for the father’s phone number. The girl left his knee and returned later. She said, “It’s too much to ask my grandma said. Would you just watch over him.” This exchange has made Jim sad to this day. That was one wish he wanted to grant.

Santa Jim is only human, but in some ways he’s larger than life because he’s committed to his calling – being a Santa who gives joy to others.

Article by Bojinka Bishop. Thanks for being you, Jim!

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