Some years ago I took on the role of the big guy in the red suit for a large family function (including several dozen kids), that was also my introduction to my in laws. Despite never have been in any kind of costume or mascot I looked forward to it and enjoyed every minute of it.
The first thing is to be positive and happy, though Bad Santa is a funny as hell movie, don’t do it real life. Come in the room full of positive energy not piss & vinegar. I came in the door (and went back out), high fiving people, ringing bells & yelling ho ho ho and since I’m from the south side, when we say ho it has a whole different connotation.
Second is be patient, some kids will like you, others will be scared, always smile and try to handle the kids with care, no matter how much they scream. In case you dealing with kids who might know you, don’t say a lot. Babies & small toddlers will gaze at you with a look that they know some familiarity; older children can be a little more difficult and you don’t want to give it away that it’s you. So you need to be “in character”, and stay positive.
There will be some embarrassing moments, a kid may have an accident (which I didn’t have to encounter), but I had several incidents of a kid bigger than me (and I’m 5’9), coming up to see Santa. You gotta be careful with this, the young person is embarrassed, and their parent wants this moment of their big kid with Santa. So just reassure the kid er teenager, you understand how awkward this is, have the picture taken and let them know “hey I know this is weird”.
Dealing with adults that come up to be with Santa, here’s where things can get really awkward. You have some people who just wanna come up, relive their childhood and have a laugh. You may get a woman or two who want to “have a little fun with Santa”. Just be cool, go along with them as long as it doesn’t get too far out there. Again in the movie Bad Santa they go way too far in the adult category stuff, you can’t do that. Just acknowledge the joke and if need be say “hey Mrs. Claus wouldn’t appreciate that”.
Most important is not to drink, curse or take part in any adult behavior with the Santa suit on (as soon as I was out of the suit, someone bought me a drink), and don’t be angry or sad, this is an acting gig and the benefit is you get to be silly and have fun with a little anonymity.
As for the suit, I’m a big dude so I didn’t need any extra padding but some people will put a pillow or stuffing under the suit to appear more authentic and “jolly”. Remember this is a character, so if you need to “bulk up”, go ahead.
I admit I did throw in a little “A Christmas Story” Santa when I played Santa, when a kid didn’t know what he wanted, I said “How about a football?”, something harmless like that doesn’t hurt, especially if a few adults are around. But you don’t want to make a joke at a kid’s expense.
Being Santa is about bringing joy to Christmas and having fun, so make sure not to disappoint. And you will have as much fun as the kids, maybe a little more.
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