Tom Nichols, a retired media specialist for elementary schools, takes on a new gig as Kris Kringle

Tom Nichols, a retired media specialist for elementary schools, takes on a new gig as Kris Kringle

With a kind heart and jovial outlook, Tom Nichols makes the perfect Santa. His calm demeanor, cultivated growing up as the only son with five sisters in Clermont, suits a jolly character with a fashion preference for red during holidays.

     A recently retired media specialist of Lake County Public Schools, he spent 30 years at Clermont Elementary where he and all his siblings attended. That grammar school also is where he and his wife Kim sent their son and daughter.

     While retirement presents challenges for some, Nichols sees opportunity to pursue a dream.

     “This idea of becoming Santa has been rolling around in my head for four or five years,” he said. “My sisters encouraged me, saying this role is a perfect fit.”

    He’s had a beard at least three decades. “But it never was this long before. As the color changed from brown to white, people would tell me I looked like Santa.”

   The tall gentleman does gaze upon others with a benevolent twinkle. “I love children, and I love Christmas,” he said. “Combining the two is a joy.”

     He recalls fond holiday memories in his childhood residence built in 1962 with the help of relatives. “I remember one time my sisters and I were in an upstairs bedroom on Christmas Eve. We noticed a blinking red light at the top of a tower across the lake. The red flashes convinced us that Rudolph was leading the sleigh in our direction. We knew we’d better get to sleep fast.”

     His parents collaborated to create special occasions. His mom’s parents immigrated from Sweden, so she prepared elaborate baked goods to carry on tradition. His dad, a doctor who practiced from 1957 to 1983 at the Clermont Medical Center, participated in ruses to protect the Santa myth.

     “Mom would tell us that dad got called to the hospital for an emergency case, so my sisters and I wouldn’t suspect his absence. Of course, we believed her.”

     Meanwhile, his dad snuck away and donned a Santa costume so the children peeking down the steps later that night would see the “real deal” stacking presents under the tree on Christmas Eve.

     Tom continues the custom of generous surprises. “Kris Kringle is a variation of the German Christkind or Christkindl, which means Christ child,” Nichols said. “For me, December 25th is a package deal. It is having Santa and celebrating Christ’s birth.”

    Nichols chuckles in delight about giving gifts to loved ones. He sings low bass in his church choir and enjoys reading classic tales.

     Those looking for wonderful holiday stories to share may enjoy Nichols’ recommendations. “I do love The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (it is popular for a reason) and Santa Calls by William Joyce (it is a bit quirky and fun; DO NOT cheat and read the surprise at the end before reading the entire book.)”

     Another favorite of his is Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. “I remember hearing this on the Captain Kangaroo TV show when I was little and enjoyed reading it with my students in the media center,” Nichols said.

Other Christmas books to check out:



“25 Free Christmas Books Online & Read Aloud Stories for the Holidays” compiled by Jacquie Fisher


Top 10 Free Classic Christmas Stories compiled by Naomi White


Photo credit: Ryan Jensen