Mall Santas by the Numbers

atkins bookshelf triviaBack in 1897, Virginia O’Hanlon wrote one of the most famous letters to the editor. “I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun [a New York newspaper] it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” Well, Virginia, the answer is a resounding YES! — just visit your local mall. You’ll find Santa, or one his helpers, keeping the dream alive for children young and old. Bookshelf takes a look at the ubiquitous mall Santa by the numbers:

Average age: 65

Average weight: 218 pounds

Those with a college education: 45%

Cost of custom authentic-looking beard: $3,000

Typical work period: most Santas work about 40 10-hour days

Number of visits with children during that period: 30,000

How much Santa makes per holiday season (6 to 8 weeks): $10,000 to $30,000 (some Santas earn bonuses for meeting daily photo quotas)

Number of common on-the-job risk: 5 (being peed on, scratched, bitten, kicked in the shins, hit in the groin)

Amount of liability insurance Santa carries: $2 million

Number of U.S. malls that hire Santas: 1,800

Number of Santa Claus schools: 4 — the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School (the oldest, founded in 1937; now based in Midland, Michigan); the Professional Santa Claus School (Denver, Colorado); the International University of Santa Claus (training sessions typically held on cruise ships); and the Santa School (Calgary, Alberta)

Year that Santa (life-size doll) first appeared in a department store window: 1841 (J. W. Parkinson’s department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Year that a Santa met with kids in department stores: 1890 (James Edgar, the owner of a department store in Brockton, Massachusetts)

The year Santa at the mall was popularized in America: 1947 (by the film, Miracle on 34th Street featuring Kris Kringle at Macys)

Average number of photos taken with Santa per location: 4,600

Number of kids who visit Santa each holiday season: 18.2 million

Age of children afraid of Santa: 1 month to 3 years old


For further reading: Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus
Twas the Night Before Christmas
A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life
Best Quotes from A Christmas Story
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
The Story Behind Scrooge
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Trivia

For further reading: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Christmas Collection (2005)

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