The “How Does Santa Work?” Edition

Slate’s Jacob Brogan talks to a mysterious man who brings presents, stories, and joy to parties each holiday season.


Photo illustration by Slate. Image by Paul Kline.

Click on the player below to listen to this episode of Working:

Subscribe in iTunesRSS feed DownloadPlay in a New Tab
Slate Plus members: Get your ad-free podcast feed.

This week on Working, we’re taking a brief, seasonal break from our ongoing series about professions imperiled by the Trump administration. We’ll return with more episodes about those in January.

When Santa Ed enters a party, he trails jingling bells behind him, but there’s one thing children shouldn’t expect to hear. “The laugh has been commercialized,” he tells us in this episode of Working, explaining his attempt to put his own spin on the character instead of adhering to its Coca Cola–sponsored image.


Ed has been playing the part for more than 30 years—and he’s been growing his beard for longer still—so it’s no surprise that he’s developed some tricks of the trade along the way. Some of those considerations are practical: For example, he has to make sure that his chair keeps him at the right height relative to the children. He also has to carefully groom his beard, ensuring that only the white hairs stand out. “When Santa has a big, full beard with no gray hairs in it, this is God’s blessing,” he says.


Throughout the holiday season, Ed typically dons his costume (often featuring a real fox fur collar) to entertain children at parties, though he does his share of corporate events for adults as well. He refrains from mall work, though, partly because it doesn’t leave him with the space to interact with children. “It would kill me to have to sit there all day,” he tells us, “and not be able to do some magical tricks.”


He leads us through some of those antics—and tells us a great deal about the way he gets into character. Along the way, he also shares a few clever strategies for other party Santas, including how he convinces kids that he really knows what they’ve been up to throughout the year. And yet, he also stresses that he tries to get children to see him “as more of a human being, somebody that’s understanding and loving.”

Though he may only spend a few minutes with any given child, he aims to have an affirmative impact in that brief time, partly by working to develop their imaginations. The way he does so, however, might be a little surprising: “I help people see that it’s alright to lie to children,” he explains.

Then, in a Slate Plus extra, Santa Ed tells us how he behaves when his clients want something a little bit “spicier” from Santa. Start your two-week free trial at

Santa Ed’s website:

Twitter: @Jacob_Brogan