Merry Christmas! Let's take a sleigh ride back to Christmas Past, all the way back to 1961. No, it's not the elf factory at the North Pole, but it's equally spectacular: it's a tour of Santa School.
Charles Howard's Santa Claus School was established in 1937 and it's the world's oldest Santa School. It's now operating out of Michigan, but began in Albion, New York.
In this photo, a training Santa practices with a volunteer child. (Wouldn't it be fascinating to hear this child's perspective?)
This photo was from a photo-essay by LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. These eager Santas-to-be signed up for a five-day course at $75 to obtain the Santa certificates that would get them a job at some of New York's most competitive department store displays. Keep in mind: $75 in 1961 is the equivalent of $586.53 in 2014's dollars.
Wearing the Santa suit takes some practice.
So does mastering the perfect belly laugh.
A spritely, soft-shoe dance is good for bringing in crowds during slow times.
Here, the Santas are learning to wear the wigs and beards.
Charles Howard, founder of the school, demonstrates how much of Santa's face should be showing between the wig and the beard.
Here is the official graduation certificate.
“This certifies that …. has honorably and diligently completed the course in the study and art of Santa Claus, and is now ready to carry on as a Helper of Santa Claus. As holder of this diploma, I fully realize the responsibility and privilege that is mine in spreading joy and happiness to the children of this world through their beloved friend and servant, Santa Claus.
I hereby sincerely and solemnly promise to give my best, my all to carry out the principles Santa Claus stands for.”