With just a few days to go before Christmas there are Santas all over the place, taking gift requests from kids, encouraging holiday shopping and generally making merry.

Now, anybody can put on a red suit and hat, don a white beard and say “ho ho ho” to passersby. But if you want to do Kris Kringle’s job properly, you can do what hundreds and hundreds of them have done: go to Santa school.

Insider profiled one such institution, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School of Midland, Michigan.

Howard had been Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the 1930s.

He opened the school so that others could take a three day drop into the deep end of the Santa pool.

And there’s a lot that goes into the training.

They teach prospective Santas how to maintain their bushy white beards, or, if they don’t have one, how to tell a realistic looking false beards from a not-so-good one.

They bring in voice teachers so they know how to project that big, booming Santa voice, and of course they practice how to interact with kids when they appear at the mall or at local events.

A big part of training today is helping Santas be more inclusive.

For example, they learn how to sign phrases like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” in American Sign Language.

There are instructors for these sessions, but for some real world experience, the school also brings in students from a local kindergarten class.

They can sit on the Santas’ knees and talk about the presents they want and ask pretty much any question that comes to mind.

Attending the school isn’t cheap; plus, most Santas have to pay for their own suits, makeup and other accessories.

And being Santa is a very seasonal job, not likely to make even the best trained Santa rich.

So why do they do it?

Some of the students at the Santa school told Insider that they loved helping make kids happy at the holidays.

They said children need joy, and one way to bring some of that joy into the world is putting on their Santa suits.

Here’s one holiday tradition that a family in Fort Nelson, British Columbia doesn’t look forward to every year.

Arlene Chmelyk says her household puts up what looks like a deer with a bright red nose; they call it Rudolph the Red-Nosed Whitetail.

But each year real live bucks drop by and knock the decoration over, thinking it’s a rival.

I bet they don’t let him join in any reindeer games either.

How Professional Santas Are Trained (Insider via YouTube)

Red-nose rage: Aggressive deer keep attacking this Rudolph decoration (CBC)

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Photo by Dwayne via Flickr/Creative Commons