Santa’s reason for the season

Published 3:51 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Community Columnist

He’s making a list and checking it twice. Santa Claus is gearing up for December’s many events, visiting children and,  of course, for the main event — Christmas Eve. Clanton resident Tommy Niles, who dresses as Old Saint Nick, said his red-suit persona began six years ago.

“My hair started to change white and people started pointing,” said Niles. “Children would get excited anytime I was in public. I wore a red shirt in a restaurant and a man came over and asked if I would come to his table to visit his children.”

A friend in Ashland asked Niles if he would play the part of Santa at a high school Juniorette’s party for Toys for Tots.

“I told her that I would be happy to be Santa for free if I could share the real meaning of Christmas with the children, and she obliged,” Niles said.

All of the Santa events he attends are at no charge as long as Niles can share the story of Jesus’ birth.

“I ask the children if they know whose birthday it is that we are celebrating,” said Niles. “Sometimes they know. Sometimes they guess that it is Santa’s birthday, and I let them know it isn’t. I tell them that without Jesus, there is no need for a Santa and that we can sing the Happy Birthday song to Jesus on Christmas morning.”

For those that believe in Santa and those that do not, Niles has a hopeful message to anyone who is feeling desperate for a Christmas miracle.

“If you think back to all of the physical gifts that you have received in your life, they are now broken, lost or you outgrew them, but the miracle of our Lord and Savior will last forever,” said Niles. “That is the hope that I can share. Jesus is the hope. That is the reason for this season.”

Among Santa’s very busy Christmas Eve events, he has 18 other events to attend this month which include Christmas parties, church events, photos with children, a Christmas parade and a fundraiser for Ashland Arts League that raises money for underprivileged children to take art lessons.

Niles’ wife Linda plays the part of Mrs. Claus and attends events with him. As a child, Linda’s father also dressed as Santa for Eastwood Mall.

“We were taught as children that we are all part of the Spirit of Christmas,” said Linda. “We all have something to give others at Christmas whether it is a gift or an action, giving to someone if you see they are in need.”

When asked what his favorite cookie flavor is, his answer is simple — “I never met a cookie that I didn’t like.” However, Mrs. Claus helps keep Santa’s health in check during the holidays.

Niles can be contacted at 205-389-0004. Donations that the Niles receive as Mr. & Mrs. Claus fund their annual mission trips.