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About the
Charles W. Howard
Santa Claus School

Established in 1937

In 1937, Charles W. Howard, a farmer in Albion, New York, established a Santa school in response to his displeasure with seeing other Santas in frayed suits, cheap beards, and shockingly inadequate knowledge of reindeer. He decided that he could start a school to make a better Santa. The first class consisted of three men, including a welder from New Jersey, his friend, and a neighbor. Charles eventually had a Christmas-themed park with several barns, a train, and some reindeer. Children from miles around would visit, including Tom Valent, originally from Salamanca, about an hour's drive from Albion.


"As a little girl, I sat on Charles Howard's lap, too," Holly Valent said. "We were from a small town. Every child wanted to go to Christmas Park." From 1948 to 1965, Charles Howard was the featured Santa Claus in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, perhaps the most visible Santa in the United States.


The school was taken over by Nate Doan in the 1960s, another famous Santa who, in 1968, moved the school to Bay City, Michigan. Tom attended the CWH Santa School in 1975 when he was expecting his first child.

Today, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School continues running under the direction of Tom and Holly Valent. It is carried on in Midland, Michigan, with an eager student body of about 300 joyful and jolly new and returning students each year.

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Tom & Holly Valent

Midland, Michigan

In 1987, under the direction of Tom and Holly Valent, the Charles W. Santa Claus School moved to Midland, Michigan. It became a non-profit organization and is the longest continuously running Santa Claus School worldwide. Tom Valent is the Dean of the internationally recognized Santa School.  


Tom and his wife, Holly (yes, that's her real name!), have been involved in the CWH Santa Claus School since 1975. Together with their five adult children, they keep the spirit of Santa alive. In 1986, Tom had the honor of designing the amazing Midland Santa House. It was designed to look like those made of gingerbread. He makes all the animation and hand-carving displays in the Santa House. Tom is a civil engineer currently president and CEO of Gerace Construction Company. Tom is a toy maker, a woodcarver, and a builder, which comes in handy at the North Pole workshop. Both Tom and Holly love working with elves and have 13 little people they call grandchildren. Of course, they also love animals, especially the reindeer they care for in their backyard.

​1995 Tom and Holly conducted the first World Santa School in Illulisatt, Greenland. The participating countries included Germany, Ireland, England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Spain, Australia, Greenland, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States.  


This Santa School has been taught in Australia, Greenland, and England. Tom and Holly have participated in the weeklong St. Nicholas festivities in Zurich, Switzerland, Oslo, Norway, and Stockholm, Sweden. Together, they have continued to spread Christmas cheer around the world!

Academic Excellence

CWH Santa Claus School Curriculum

Classes will begin Thursday, October 10, 2024, at 9:00 AM. There are three school days filled with many activities and information. The school officially ends after the Graduation Banquet on Saturday, October 12, around 9:00 PM.

Students attending the school will experience and learn the following:

  •   The History of Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus

  •   Proper dress and use of make-up

  •   Professional wig and beard applications for those without real beards

  •   Experience in radio and television interviews

  •   Santa Sign Language

  •   Singing, voice, and presentation skills

  •   Question & Answer forums

  •   Santa visits with children

  •   Accounting and business tips

  •   Marketing advice

  •   Live reindeer habits

  •   Meet real reindeer

  •   Mrs. Claus

  •   Midland Santa House visit

  •   Practice Santa flight lessons

  •   Make toys in Santa's workshop

  • ​  Newest toys and gadgets on wishlists

  •   Health and Exercise 

  •   Greyhound Bus transportation for the Friday Adventures

  •   A trip to the Largest Christmas Store in the World

  •   Cookies and coffee

  •   Three meals are included  

Lunch on Friday

Dinner on Friday at the Bavarian Inn, a world-famous chicken restaurant

Dinner on Saturday at the Graduation Banquet

  •   And much, much more!


2024 Tuition

  • NEW students $620

  • ALUMNI students $590

Registered students may purchase guest tickets for an additional price for the Friday Adventures and Saturday Graduation Banquet.

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