A specific breed of Post50s are pursuing a second act where a properly curled beard earns you top marks and a red suit and boots takes the place of a diploma and a degree. While some are merely taking "tis the season to be jolly" to a whole new level, many are looking to cushion retirement and find a new source of income by taking on the hefty role of Santa Claus.
The New York Times reports that last month, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan, the largest (and most prestigious) of its kind in the US, experienced the largest enrollment in their nearly 75 years of Father Christmas education. While many students were veteran Kringles looking to perfect their craft, a handful, including an aerospace engineer and an accountant, were turning to Santa studies as struggling victims of the recession in need of help.
Amidst a swelling class size, a recent shift in curriculum also points to the changing times. Along with classes on dance lessons and beard grooming, a financial planner advised soon-to-be Santas to open pension funds and contribute to 401(k) retirement accounts. According to The Daily Mail, trainers have also been advising their up-and-coming St. Nicks on how to lower children's expectations in lieu of the economic downturn. Student Santas are being trained to size up parents' pockets in terms of what Santa can promise to deliver, to remind children that not everything on their two-page list will necessarily be under the tree come the morning of the 25th and even how to confront questions such as the recently more frequent, "Can you bring my daddy a job?"
Nonetheless, the Howard tuition ($400 for first-timers, $350 for returning Santas) could be a good investment. The Daily Mail reports that mall Santas can earn up to $50 an hour while ABC News reports that Jack Sanderson, the principle figure of the new documentary "Becoming Santa", is prepping to leave on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hong Kong as Cartier’s corporate Santa. The bleached beard and jolly demeanor seem to have paid off; along with roundtrip airfare and his own Cantonese translator, Sanderson will receive $850 a day for three weeks, making about $16,000.
WATCH: The New York Times profile on the oldest and most celebrated Santa school in the US.