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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 direct response to his displeasure with seeing other Santas in frayed suits and cheap beards, and a 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 for miles around would visit, including Tom Valent, who is originally from a town called 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 the 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 first attend the CWH Santa School in 1975 when expecting his first child.

Today, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School continues running under the direction of Tom and Holly Valent and 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 in the world. 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 continue to 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 of the animation and hand carves displays in the Santa House. Tom is a civil engineer and is 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 12 little people they call grandchildren. Of course they also love animals and especially the reindeer they care for in their own backyard.

​In 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, as well as 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 5, 2023 at 9:00 AM.  The days will be filled with many activities and information.  The school officially ends after the Graduation Banquet on Saturday October 7 around 9:00 PM.

Students attending the school will experience and learn:

  •   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 for radio and television interviews

  •   Santa Sign Language

  •   Singing, voice, and presentation skills

  •   Question & Answer forums

  •   Santa visit 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

  •   2 full meals are included  

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

              Dinner on Saturday at the Graduation Banquet

  •   And much, much more!


2023 Tuition

  • NEW students $600

  • ALUMNI students $570

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

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