Michigan’s Santa Claus Boot Camp Graduates Its 75th Class of St. Nicks

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CWH Santa School

Think anyone can just suit up and be Santa? Think again.

The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, Michigan takes the coveted position very seriously and just wrapped up its 75th (75th!) year of the country’s finest Santa Claus training. The Los Angeles Times reports on the school’s storied history and why it’s considered the “Harvard of Santa schools.”

The school was started in 1937 by Charles W. Howard (who served as Santa for Macy’s) in order to instill the utmost values and etiquette in those looking to take on the role. The school is now run by Tom and Holly Valent, who explain that becoming St. Nick is not a job, but a “privilege.”

(PHOTOS: Santa Gone Wild)

This year, 120 students from across the world gathered for the three-day intensive course. The $400 tuition gets students all kinds of hands-on training, lectures, and field trips geared toward prepping the Santas for every possible scenario. Lest they be caught off guard by an inquisitive child, the students are equipped with all the essential knowledge needed to be the best Santa Claus possible: history of St. Nicholas, songs and poems, spur-of-the-moment storytelling skills, and how to say “Merry Christmas” in sign language—straight out of Miracle on 34th Street.

Of course, not all of it is warm and fuzzy. The school also helps Santas protect themselves and helps them navigate their rights during the crazy holiday season, from contract issues to making sure they are entitled to regular bathroom breaks.

The golden rule? Keep your hands where everyone can see them. Even better, wear white gloves so there’s no mistake about it. Liability issues are sadly a part of the biz.

The school’s website also says students learn all about live reindeer habits, practice Santa flight lessons, and learn how to create the perfect rosy cheeks.

Want to be a part of next year’s class? The registration form is on the site, but be prepared to write an essay explaining why you want to be the perfect Santa.

MORE: Calling all Kringles: The Annual Santa Claus Congress Kicks Off In Denmark

Aylin Zafar is a contributor to TIME. Find her on Twitter at @azafar. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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