Rio de Janeiro’s Santa Claus school celebrated its 25th birthday this week during a celebration that involved electing the best Santa Claus of the 2018 season — and giving him the title of Brazil’s "Papa Noel.”
The “Barbas de molho” (Beard at rest) meeting is a special tradition held every year at the school to mark the end of the 40-day season in which Santas work in shopping malls around Rio.
"We all meet... to celebrate the end of the season by cutting beards and eating a delicious spaghetti bolognese," Hélio Araújo, the school's spokesperson, told ABC News.
Every Santa Claus starts growing their beard in May or June using specific techniques — including coconut oil and special combs — to get as close to looking like the real Claus as possible.
During the "Beard at rest" event, Limachem Cherem, the founder and director of the school, uses scissors to make the first cut on each Santa’s beard.
"It is a symbol to give them some rest" Araújo said.
This year’s winner was 65-year-old Carlos Alberto Patricio. In a phone interview with ABC News, he talked about how happy he was to bring joy to children — a relatively new mission in his life.
"I started 2 years ago by growing my beard. My beard was so white then [that] all my coworkers told me I should start working as a Santa Claus," he said.
After reaching out the school in 2017, Patricio participated in a casting call at the Praia Botafogo shopping mall where he went up against eight other candidates. He won.
"I want to be a different Santa Claus,” he said. “I did make clown faces and I always encouraged the whole family to have a picture with me... not just the little ones. I really want them to remember whose birthday it is — Jesus Christ."
As for the secret to becoming the Brazilian Santa Claus of the year? Patricio said it's beard cream for hydrating the hair.
The school has trained 700 Santa Clauses so far. Depending on the number of days and the location of the mall, a Santa Claus can earn up to $3,850 for the season.