I’ve played Santa for 17 years — these are the questions I get asked most often

Santa Ed Taylor on a television set.

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Santa Ed Taylor on a television set.
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Courtesy of Ed Taylor

I look an awful lot like Santa Claus. I have the big, naturally white beard and a big belly, and most days I’m wearing a red shirt. I’m quick to smile and have an overall jolly demeanor.

So yes, adults do frequently ask: “Do you play Santa Claus?”

I’ve been playing Santa for the past 17 years. In 2003, my friend Gordon got a cold and couldn’t fulfill his duties as Santa at a local fundraiser. I stepped in, and I’ve been playing Santa ever since.

Looking like Santa Claus adds a tremendous amount of fun to even the most mundane of activities. I’ve struck up more conversations and taken more selfies in gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants than you can imagine.

As a “Santa,” I’m often inundated with all sorts of questions about my work – like, “Is your beard real?” I typically respond with, “Of course, you know it’s very cold up at the Pole … and it keeps my face warm.”

Here are my answers to some of the most burning questions people have when they find out I play Santa.


‘Does your wife play Mrs. Claus?’

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Ed with Mrs. Claus.
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Courtesy of Ed Taylor

Like me, my wife was a bit reluctant to “become a Claus,” but she did join me as Mrs. Claus in 2010 for a parade and she really enjoyed it. For the next several years, she made eight to 10 appearances a year with me, and we had a terrific time. We appeared at Mattel Toys, celebrity parties, parades, and tree-lighting ceremonies together. These days she’s pretty busy with grandkids, so she usually stays up at the North Pole.


‘What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever been asked for?’

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Ed Taylor in Malibu in 2016.
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Courtesy of Ed Taylor

This one comes up a lot, and I don’t have a good answer for it. A six- or seven-year-old boy recently asked me for a blanket and a pillow for his little brother – I was appearing for a group of homeless children at the time. Many of the children asked me to bring gifts to their parents, including helping them get a job. A few asked if they could come back to the North Pole with me.

Moments like these can be very poignant and make me feel sad for their circumstances – but also happy about being a part of something that is giving them some joy and happiness in the moment, and hopefully inspiring some faith about the future.


‘Did you go to Santa School?’

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Ed Taylor as Santa.
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Courtesy of Ed Taylor.

I was a volunteer Santa for seven years, and a paid Santa for two years before attending a Santa School. In fact, I started teaching other Santas what I had learned before attending a Santa School. In 2013 and 2014, I was asked to be a guest presenter at two different Santa Schools. I was honored to have been invited, and I attended all of the sessions.

One of the schools covered the history of Santa Claus and the Christmas traditions in great depth. The other gave a live demonstration on beard grooming. I found both interesting and fun to attend.

Now, I operate the largest Santa Claus School in the world, The-Santa-Claus-Conservatory.com. It’s been called “the Stanford of Santa schools.” It’s all online, and we have more than 3,000 members worldwide.


‘Can you earn much money playing Santa Claus?’

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Santa Ed Taylor in a music video with Gwen Stefani.
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YouTube

There are some people who play Santa Claus that earn a lot of money; Hollywood actors like Kurt Russell and Ed Asner come to mind. Of course, these are “real” actors, not Santas, but the line does get blurry. I and many members of The Santa Claus Conservatory have appeared in commercials, TV shows, and movies. These things can add substantially to a Santa’s income.

Same with being a “brand ambassador.” Many Santas, including me, have partnered with brands to be their ambassador of the Christmas spirit.

Many Santas spend time in October and early November working the photo studios – this too can increase a Santa’s income.

So the question of income is difficult to answer, ranging typically to a few thousand dollars for a mall or retail Santa to $30,000 – $40,0000 or even $50,000 or more (sometimes much more) for the very few Santas who work year round and pursue work in the entertainment industry, or become brand ambassadors.


‘How many times have kids peed on your lap?’

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Santa Ed at a mall in 2017.
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Courtesy of Ed Taylor

The answer for me is none … but there have been a couple of Santas who have had that happen.


‘Do the kids pull your beard?’

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It’s often inadvertent.
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Elva Etienne/Getty Images

Most of the beard pulling is inadvertent by infants. The second most common group of beard tuggers are playful dads … and yes, there is the occasional six-, seven-, or eight-year-old that will sneak a little tug.


‘What do the children ask for most?’

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Santa Ed not pictured.
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manonallard/Getty Images

This is probably no surprise, but phones are certainly near the top of the list. Legos, dolls, hoverboards … the list is long. I’m also hearing more requests for things like a family vacation and playing games with the family. This move toward “experiences” rather than “physical gifts” is new and growing.


‘What do you do when you’re not being Santa?’

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When he’s not Santa, Ed is a grandparent (Ed not pictured).
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Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

My biggest joy in life is being a grandparent, so I spend a lot of time with the grandkids … but maybe that’s also being Santa.

Ed Taylor is the founder of Worldwide Santa Claus Network, a network for Clauses and non-Clauses committed to spreading the Christmas spirit far and wide all year long.