That makes it crucial for Santa to be prepared for anything, from the mom who wants to sit on his knee (gently dissuade her) to the children who want to know everything about Santa’s reindeer. Santa must know all their names and Rudolph’s age — he turned 72 this year. He must know the history of St. Nicholas, the words to favorite holiday songs and poems, and how to spin Christmas tales and descriptions of the North Pole off the top of his head. He must learn to say “Merry Christmas” in sign language…

“If you promise them something and that Barbie doll doesn’t show up, that’s a bad situation,” said Valent, who suggests a variety of responses that show Santa is listening without committing. But if a gift is promised and fails to show up, he said, “Blame it on the elves, who do the packing.”…

A fitness trainer led a rigorous workout of jumping jacks, stretches and push-ups, all to prevent cramping and soreness after hours in Santa’s chair. Luke McBride, a Santa working major resorts in Miami and the Bahamas, demonstrated how to apply blush high on the cheeks to get that wind-blown, just-off-the-sleigh look. Davenport, the “attorney Santa,” advised them to wear white gloves to keep their hands highly visible, to lessen the chance of molestation accusations.