12/06/2011 04:49 pm ET

Mall Santas Taught To Lower Children's Expectations in 'Santa School'

Warning: This story contains content about Santa Claus, so take caution if big Santa believers are around.

Not only do Santa schools exist, but they teach a surprising message, NPR reports.

The Charles W. Howard Santa School teaches its student Santas to lower children's presents expectations, graduate and current mall Santa Fred Honerkamp tells NPR.

"...We try to manage the expectations. First, Santa never promises anything. I weave in little stories about the North Pole. A child, for example, will ask for a — an iPad, and I'll say, oh, I wish you hadn't asked for that. And they'll say, 'Why?' And I'll say, 'Well, have you ever been to the North Pole? Well, of course not. But up there, we have building two. You go out of the main lodge, and the snow is very deep. You go down to building two, and that's where we do our electronics.

'And the little elf that's making the iPads is an elf named Rupert. And guess what he's doing?' And the child will say, 'What?'
'He's playing with them. We're way behind production. I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't think we're going to be able to fill the iPad orders.'"

For 69-year-old Santa Richard Holden, that hasn't been a problem lately , since children seem to be asking for fewer things due to tough times.

"These children understand the conditions around the home when they ask for stuff," Holden tells the Associated Press. "They understand when there are other children in the family, they need to be cautious or thoughtful of them as well and not ask for 10 to 12 items."

If there is a big-budget request, Holden usually side-steps it by saying, "There's an awful lot of children asking for that this year. What else do you want?"

Santas aren't the only ones noticing the effects of the shaky economy. The National Foundation of Credit Counseling estimates that as many as 40 percent of Americans won't be shopping this holiday season. The study surveyed 1,232 people, and 40 percent said they "anticipate further financial distress" and will refrain from spending money.