Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Midland’s Main Street?!? And wait… he’s not alone!
Yes, it’s true! Each year, close to 300 Santa Clauses descend on Midland Michigan to learn how to be Santa before the town’s own Santa takes up residence at the Santa House Midland destination on Main Street. It’s all part of the holiday festivities in this small Michigan town.
Charles W. Howard Santa School in Midland Michigan
The best and oldest Santa Claus school in the world is the CWH Santa Claus School in Midland Michigan, and it’s only offered once a year! Established in New York in 1937, the Santa school was moved to Michigan in 1968.
7 Fun Facts About CWH Santa School
1. Charles Howard was a professional Santa of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade variety. While his first gig as Santa was in a fourth-grade play at school, he starred as Saint Nicholas from 1948 to 1965 in the annual New York holiday parade and was a consultant for “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947).
2. CWH Santa School was founded to help department store Santas portray a purer version of Kris Kringle. A lack of knowledge of reindeer, frayed suits, and poor hygiene amongst Santas was disheartening to Howard. From his own living room to refurbished barns, the first Santa classes were simple but filled with the spirit of Christmas.
“He errs who thinks Santa enters through the chimney. Santa enters through the heart.” Charles W. Howard, 1937
3. For over 80 years (since 1937), CWH Santa School has been the longest continuously operating Santa school in the world. From its earliest days in New York to its more recent history in Michigan, this Santa School has provided years and years of holiday cheer to boys and girls across America.
4. The mission of Charles W. Howard Santa School near Bay City Michigan is to “uphold the traditions and preserve the history of Santa Claus while providing students with the necessary resources to improve and further define their individual presentations of Santa and Mrs. Claus, allowing them to enter the hearts and spread the Christmas spirit to everyone they meet.”
5. While nearly 300 Santas (and Mrs. Claus) go through the training program each year, not everyone who applies is accepted. The Michigan Santa school screens its applicants, looking for those whose primary goal is to bring Christmas cheer, not line their own pockets.
6. Santa training is only offered once a year over the course of three days. Instructional time [including lessons in child psychology], field trips [to meet real reindeer], train rides [on the nearby Huckleberry Express], and entertainment [singing, storytelling, and dancing] are a part of the annual event to prepare Santa Clauses for the upcoming holiday season.
7. Tom and Holly Valent currently own and operate the “Harvard of Santa Schools” as well as the nearby Midland Santa House. Tom first attended the Santa school in 1975, and he is thrilled to bring joy to millions of children as they carry on this long-standing tradition of training Santas.
Santa House in Midland Michigan
Santa Claus arrives in Midland Michigan each year on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Arriving at the Tridge, he makes his way up Ashman St to participate in the Courthouse Lighting before taking up residence at the Santa House.
Located at the corner of M-20 and Main Street in Midland, Santa’s House is free for kids of all ages to visit and experience the magic of the season. During their visit, they are able to meet Santa and ride the Northern Star Train.
It is recommended that visitors to Santa’s House arrive at least 45 minutes prior to closing in order to enjoy the full North Pole experience.
Northern Star Train
As part of the free Santa House Midland experience, the Northern Star Train runs a 10 to 15-minute loop through downtown Midland. Riders can board the Santa train at the Midland County Courthouse on Main St and enjoy a festive ride through the holiday lights of downtown.
Santa House Midland History
In 1987, the current Santa House Midland attraction was built by Gerace Construction Company (under the guidance of architects Tom Valent & Steve Barstow) to replace the temporary structure that was falling apart after it had been used for many years.
The Midland Area Community Foundation and other generous donors were responsible for helping make this new Santa House a reality.
Built with historical “accuracy” in mind, the stucco and fieldstone structure was approved by the Historical Commission and blended in with the neighboring courthouse’s architecture while providing the iconic features of a slanted roof for reindeer takeoffs and a holiday-trimmed bay window.
Dow Chemical donated a Glockenspiel in 1997 to celebrate its 100th anniversary as a company, and shutters were added through a generous donation by Mrs. Anderson (Dorothy) Arbury.
More Holiday Things to Do in Midland
There’s more magic to experience this holiday season in Midland! Here are a few other Midland Michigan holiday things to do.
The annual Midland Santa Holiday Parade has welcomed the holiday season every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving since 1985. The parade has a different theme every year.
The parade route begins at Midland High School and ends on Main Street, at which point judges declare the parade float winners.
If you’re looking to do some local holiday shopping in the Great Lakes Bay Region, be sure to do so during this event in downtown Midland! Holly Jolly Days in Downtown Midland offers special holiday shopping deals and beautifully painted holiday window displays by Brush Monkeys.
Shoppers can enjoy warming up by outdoor fireplaces while enjoying a Commons beverage and participating in family festivities.
Complementary holiday stations — free s’mores, DIY gift wrapping, cookie decorating, candy canes, and hot chocolate — are offered by the Midland Downtown Business Association. Free horse-drawn carriage rides will be available during select times, with passenger pick-up being located in front of the H Hotel.
Dress in your best festive holiday gear — ugly Christmas sweaters, candy cane socks, Santa hats, etc. — and register for the free 1-mile untimed Jingle Bell Fun Run. You could even win a prize if you’re one of the most decked-out participants!
The non-race will begin at the corner of Ashman & Main St in downtown Midland and welcomes participants of all ages — furry friends who play nice with others are welcome too, as long as they’re on a leash!
Registered participants will receive a jingle bell to wear during the event, and free hot chocolate and “snowball” donut holes will be provided outside of the H Hotel courtyard.
Non-perishable food items will be collected for the local food bank in lieu of a race fee.
Visit The Pines of Dow Gardens this December to celebrate the holidays. This 1899 National Historic Landmark is surrounded by grand trees and a sweeping winter landscape.
As you tour the historic home and discover the Dow family’s holiday traditions, you will be delighted with the smell of fresh garland and tales of Christmases past.
Related: Ultimate Guide to Dow Gardens
Santa Brings the Joy of the Season in Midland
Jolly Old Saint Nick knows how to bring joy into the holiday season, and the Santa House in Midland Michigan has a special role in spreading holiday cheer across the nation.
Don’t miss a visit to this seasonal attraction, and experience all of the best things to do this holiday season in the Great Lakes Bay region!