The Santa Files

By Francis Storrs | Boston Magazine |

Back in 1890 a Brockton shopkeeper named James Edgar went looking for a way to boost his holiday sales, and hit upon the idea of dressing up as a jolly old elf. Thus was born America’s first department-store Santa. These days there are about 3,500 of them working in shopping centers nationwide — including dozens here in Massachusetts. Curious about what the Santa job entails, we put our little helpers to work digging up some of his secrets.

The Santa Locator
Having a hard time deciding which Santa to visit? Try one of these local all-stars.

1. Best Old-World Santa
Burlington Mall, Burlington

2. Best Free-Photo Santa
Bass Pro Shops, Foxboro

3. Best Traditional Santa
CambridgeSide Galleria,Cambridge

30,000: Number of kids a popular mall Santa can expect to see this month.

"Santa will see what he can do."
The best answer to tough requests for presents ("Can you get Daddy a job?") as recommended by Noerr Programs, the Santa-staffing service for the CambridgeSide Galleria and other area malls.

44% of Santas are sneezed on up to 15 times a day, one of the job’s many unique hazards.
28% of Santas are peed on at least once per season, so smart Santas keep a spare suit handy.
93% of Santas have their beards yanked — almost half the time by skeptical moms.


Training at the International University of Santa Claus…$189
Traditional suit …$500 to $600
Old-world suit…$1,000+
Black leather belt…$150 to $200
Custom leather boots…$300 to $500
$1 million in liability insurance…$176 to $200
Disinfectant spray…$4.99

Santas obsess over their beards, submitting them to a constant regimen of bleaching, shampooing, and brushing. Why all the fuss? Because real-beard Santas make up to $30,000 per season, around 25 percent more than colleagues sporting falsies.

60 seconds
Maximum amount of time a mall Santa wants to spend with each child.