Article by Tracy Smoak

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 the 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 childhood holiday memories in the residence built in 1962 on Third Street 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 Lake Minnehaha. 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. His business website is Classic Kris Kringle, and he schedules local appearances. “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 the approaching season of giving gifts to loved ones. He sings low bass in his church choir and the Millennium Master Chorale in Leesburg.

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), 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), and 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 little students in the media center).”

Anyone interested in contacting him about appearing at an event, may do so at Email:

Photos courtesy of Santa Claus (Tom Nichols)


About the Writer:  Tracy is an accomplished author and photographer. She grew up in Clermont, a place known for its natural beauty and where her love of water views evolved.   Her book “Living Water to Refresh Your Soul” contains thirty photographs of inspiring water scenes in Lake County and bible verses, prayers, and faith steps to calm and comfort the reader. Tracy has a devotional blog, “Finding Hope” for those seeking a respite from the noise and chaos and to comfort and challenge her readers. She says her passion is connecting people with God, particularly when they face challenging times.


Previous articleSanta Claus Will Be Attending Mascotte’s 1st Annual Hometown Holiday (Dec 1st And 3rd)
Next articleIt’s Snowing At The Florida Citrus Tower! Spectacular Light Up Each Night Through Dec 31.