40 Father Christmases graduate from Brazilian Santa School
Whoever doubted the existence of Father Christmas was in for a shock on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, as 40 carolling Clauses graduated from the Brazilian Santa School in a ceremony on Guanabara Bay.
Sporting full white beards and wide, polished smiles, the cohort of Santas set out onto the bay to receive their graduation certificates and hand out presents to a horde of young children, excited as Christmas had come early.
"We didn't expect so many Father Christmases did we? It was great, she is very excited!" said Marcelo, as his daughter Bruna picked a present from a velvet green sack.
The class of 2015, known in Portuguese as "the good old men", are now qualified to work as official Santas in shopping centres throughout the city as Christmas draws near.
The principle of the school, founded in 1993 by Brazilian actor Limachem Cherem, is that it is not enough to dress in red and chuckle "ho-ho-ho".
According to Cherem, a true Father Christmas must first have a natural way with children and then enter into character using theatrical methodology taught in free yearly courses at the school.
And the children were not the only ones bubbling with excitement as they looked to the festive season ahead.
"It is a very satisfying job to pass a present into the hands of a child. The happiness you see in them gives you great happiness too, to be bringing joy at Christmas time, it leaves me so content, speechless," said graduate Roberto Stankevicus.
"I am always thinking about Christmas and being able to make children happy, smiling, playing, elderly people, everyone," said another colleague, Wilson Donato.
"Father Christmas dresses in white, black, blue. What a question. All you need is love, and then to make sure you are smelling nice, with no bad breath if you can help it, try not to drink or smoke. On the night you are working you must have a wholesome tongue, be comprehensible, you don't need to put on airs and graces, but enter into character!" added Ailton Cohen, donning a white fur suit.
Between 1993 and 2010, some 400 Father Christmases graduated from the school, with its alumni returning each year to pass on their secrets.
This year, a further 20 "Noeletes", or Santa's little helpers, underwent singing lessons to fine-tune their chords for hours of Christmas carolling, and make-up workshops, ready to touch up their colleagues' rosy cheeks, bushy eye-brows and all-important beards.
According to the school, the Noeletes, aged between 18 and 25, stand to gain up to 3,000 Brazilian reales (791 U.S. dollars) in 40 days of work over the holiday period.