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Santa Economics: How Much Does A Mall Santa Make?

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photo courtesy of Paramus Mayor Chris DiPiazza

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Paramus NJ, Santa Claus embodies the spirit of Christmas joy and merriment, representing a valuable cultural icon. In the contemporary economy, every source of value is maximized.

The tradition of visiting Santa at the local mall has become a quintessential part of the American Christmas experience, extending to other countries as well. Children have the opportunity to express their gift wishes directly to Santa, while parents capture the festive moments through Christmas-themed photos.

The origins of America’s first mall Santa are subject to some debate. Although Macy’s claims to have initiated this tradition in 1861, they offer no supporting evidence. The tradition likely began in 1890 with a Massachusetts-based department store.

Initially, mall Santas served as a marketing strategy for stores, attracting parents to engage in holiday shopping. However, contemporary malls often charge parents for the Santa experience itself.

Being a mall Santa may seem like a joyful job, but it involves long hours, staying in character, and managing sometimes uncooperative children. Santa shifts can last 10 hours, with Santas seeing over 150 children per shift. Many Santas express the constant pressure to increase efficiency, with elvish helpers ensuring a steady line.

Mall Santas typically earn between $35 and $50 per hour, totaling around $10,000 to $20,000 over the Christmas season. However, this income must cover business expenses, such as the cost of bleaching a beard or acquiring a handmade fake one.

For a select group, portraying Santa is not just a seasonal gig but a profession. Elite Santas, akin to celebrity impersonators, can earn several multiples of the mall Santa rate—up to $350 per hour in big cities, with some earning over $1,000 per day. Corporate clients, including banks and country clubs, contribute significantly to this top-tier income, paying for premium Santa appearances at holiday events.

An industry has emerged to support Santas in monetizing their talent. Santa schools, such as the Worldwide Santa Claus Network’s Santa School and the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, offer training in various Santa skills. Santa unions, such as the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas and the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, provide support, networking opportunities, and group discounts. With a growing awareness of potential legal issues, Santas are increasingly recognizing the need for insurance protection.

The Santa industry is evolving into a more organized and professional sector. Large-scale efforts are dedicated to bringing the legend of Santa Claus into the real world, reflecting the ongoing commercialization and cultural significance of this iconic figure.

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One thought on “Santa Economics: How Much Does A Mall Santa Make?

  1. They look like the BeeGees….

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