Don, this sounds like the article you're talking about. I have NEVER read a foreign article or seen one that anyone has posted. You'll see he mentions the same countries that you mention, however, there are no dates.
CU's Santa spreads holiday messages of love, peace
Professional Santa school teaches students to believe in magic of Christmas tradition
By Sara Lewis
Campus Press Staff Writer
When retired journalism Professor Bill McReynolds went to London's Leicester Square last June, he was hoisted onto the shoulders of the British and passed through a crowd chanting "Father Christmas."
While traveling in Portugal three years ago, school children dressed in uniforms went marching past him singing "Jingle Bells."
And in Edinburgh, Scotland, three little girls ran up to him in St. Giles' Church and then lit a candle to say a prayer for Santa.
But one glance at McReynolds explains all the hype. With a long, curly white beard and a lovable personality, all that is missing is a red sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
"Everywhere I go I am constantly approached and called Santa," McReynolds said. "Christmas is every day for Santa."
McReynolds continues to teach Mass Communication History at CU, but during the holiday season, he roams the Pearl Street Mall dressed in his bright red suit, bringing messages of love and simplicity to his wide-eyed admirers.
McReynolds, who has been one of Boulder's Santas for four years, first came up with the ambition after performing in "Les Miserables" at his church.
"The director said I could choose any personality that I wanted to, so I decided to play a tavern keeper with a stubbly beard," McReynolds said. "Well, the play kept going, my beard got longer -- it was white -- and people started calling me Santa."
Two years later, McReynolds decided to go to Santa school to earn a degree in "Santa Clausing." He attended Susen Mesco's American Events & Promotions Professional Santa Claus School in the Denver area.
"We're looking for what is on the inside," Mesco said. "If they have the right attitude on the inside we can make them look like a Santa on the outside.
"Our goal is to teach them how to believe in the magic."
Mesco, whose school is the second largest in the nation, said she gets at least 500 applications a year. Mesco accepts about 100 applicants, and about 50 decide to actually go through the program and graduate. Students attend a two-day convention, receiving 36 hours of training in Santa Claus techniques.
"Santa School taught me all kinds of things," McReynolds said. "You have to be on your mettle all of the time because you never know what they are going to ask."
The school's coursework includes memorization of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," the history of Santa Claus, learning the 100 impossible situations and questions asked by children, "Sant-Ercise" classes for Santa and children, perfecting Santa's "Ho! Ho! Ho!" and North Pole carnival games.
Guest speakers also are brought in to work with the potential Santas on their nutrition and physical fitness, and also to learn American Sign Language, costuming, make-up, acting and child psychology.
The Santa oath
"One of the things we do is make them cut out paper snowflakes," Mesco said. "When these guys wrestle with a pair of scissors and a sheet of Xerox paper, they realize the time and effort children put into making these special crafts."
After videotaping their first encounter with children and passing a written and oral exam, the Santas take an oath, receive their Santa smile ring, white gloves and a diploma in Professional Santa Clausing.
One of the most important things Santa should never do is make promises to the children, McReynolds said. While most Santas have become commercialized, McReynolds tries to convey the true meaning of Christmas to the children.
"I tell the children that Santa only really believes in simple gifts," McReynolds said. "The simplest gifts are love, joy and peace.
"This year Santa also wants contentment for everyone -- not so much distress -- and civility."
Being Santa also has its challenges. In 1993, McReynolds was attacked by a group of teenagers while doing his rounds on the mall. This incident occurred the same year that many Santas in Colorado received death threats and had to be removed from the malls. But with help from a police escort, McReynolds continued to make his rounds. He said the biggest obstacle comes from those who don't have the true holiday spirit.
"Some people get really distraught that the Santa spirit is not as prevalent as it should be," McReynolds said. "One woman was convinced my beard was fake and practically pulled me to the ground trying to take it off."
McReynolds still feels the job is rewarding.
"The children -- just looking at them and having them look up at me -- it's like I'm surrounded by angels," he said. "They are so trusting of me. There is nothing else like it in the world."