Not just anyone can put on a red and white suit, a beard and shout a couple of "ho ho hos" and be Santa. No, being a meet-and-greet Santa requires the perfect blend of charisma, patience and stamina to withstand hours of children screaming, tugging, crying, storytelling and parents trying to get the perfect photo.
David Green is no amateur to this Yuletide game. Green has been playing Santa for seven years at various events like this Sunday's Pancakes with Santa at the Links at Riverlakes Ranch.
"I'll be sad when I get to an age where I can't physically lift or hold and be able to do this," Green said.
Green started this endeavor because of his grandkids. Many of his bookings come through his wife's event planning company, Simply Chic Events, which books private and public events for his Santa appearances.
"Anyone can be a Santa as long as you're extremely patient and flexible," Green said.
Having a couple of years experience is helpful, as Green knows the ins and outs, like: what positions might be better to hold a child so they don't fall down; walk slowly because visibility is limited with a "belly" jutting out; bring red and white towels in case of pets or nauseous babies; and be a patient listener.
Being a Santa isn't a comfortable labor. "The suit is extremely warm, especially if you don't have built-in padding," Green said, referring to Santa's big bowl full of jelly.
"It's a lot of layers, with the suit and the facial hair and all this regalia on my head makes me lose about 50 percent of oxygen intake," Green said.
As a veteran Santa, Green has custom-ordered an oxygen tube apparatus that he wears under the suit in the form of a vest. The vest can give him bursts of air when he's getting winded.
"You have to be extremely flexible," Green said. "You might have a family that wants 50 shots or three shots."
But you're not going to see Green in a cooler suit because he said the more expensive, the better in this case because of authenticity.
"There are Santas that just sit in the chair, but I'll get up and talk to kids, especially the more hesitant ones," Green said about kids who are scared of Santa and non-believers.
Green even goes so far as to show up at the non-believers' houses on Christmas Eve — with a little help from the parents.
"I'll sneak around, then when they're peeking, I'll put my finger to my lips like 'shhh' and wish everyone 'Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night,'" Green said.
Green has mastered the bass-filled "ho ho hos" and booming "Merry Christmas," which are essentials to embody the 1,000-year-old persona.
Michael "Mike" Molina, a novice Santa, agrees with this, as he put in a few hours of research before his second year of performing as Santa at the Skateland Craft Fair on Sunday afternoon.
"It's a lot of thinking on the fly," Molina said. "You have to keep them curious and believing in the spirit."
Molina, a Skateland employee, decided to go round two as Skateland's resident Santa. This year he prepped by watching "The Polar Express," a movie all about the spirit of Christmas, with his son.
"I enjoy it, I look forward to hearing what the children want for Christmas," Molina said.
He also enjoys the banter.
"I had a girl a little bit ago ask me where the reindeer were and I said 'well they're up on the roof, they're eating lunch,'" Molina said.
Both Molina and Green have undergone plenty of background checks due to their usual professions, but advise those hiring Santas for events to do due diligence because, as Green puts it, "anyone can go to Kmart and buy a suit, but you want to make sure that Santa isn't smelling of Jack Daniels, for instance."
Molina will be playing Santa again at Skateland's Skate with Santa on Dec. 16, and Green has various events around Bakersfield, especially on Christmas, playing Santa for his grandchildren.
"Don't forget to leave out chocolate chip cookies, those are Santa's favorites," Green said.