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'A real sweetheart': Billings Santa Claus touches hearts across the Magic City

Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-24 19:02:26-05

BILLINGS — When Santa Claus is busy getting ready for Christmas, he has some special helpers in Billings. One of those helpers is Dan Nichols, a Magic City Santa that’s making an impression all over the community.

The Billings native has played many roles. He’s a small business owner, a retired rural mail carrier and part of the year, Santa Claus.

“A real sweetheart you know, everybody loves Dan,” said Christine Fasching, who stopped by Keller Williams Realty on the West End Saturday night to grab pictures of Nichols as Santa with her kids.

He took over the role of Santa from his mentor, Jim Jenson several years ago.

“He was the man. He sold us his business about three years ago and he has offered me considerable advice as I’ve matured as a Santa,” Nichols said.

Dan Nichols as Santa Claus

Nichols fit into the role of Santa Claus like a Christmas glove.

“I’m very lucky. I do nothing artificial; everything is natural color. I don’t even trim my beard ‘cuz if I do, I would make a mess of it,” Nichols said.

From countless home and business visits to Holiday Nights at Zoo Montana, Nichols’ schedule was packed this Christmas season.

“It’s more about being genuinely Santa. And that is a place you got to get to, but it doesn’t take me long ‘cuz it’s kind of who I am,” said Nichols.

It’s not just Nichols’ appearance that makes him such a great Santa to kids like 12-year-old Ryker Crow. Ryker saw Santa earlier this month at Scheels.

“I drew Santa himself and one of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” Ryker said.

Ryker Crow and Santa Claus at Scheels

It’s the way he delivers the magic of the Christmas spirit.

“Ryker has autism. He’s just always so patient with him and Ryker drew him pictures and he sat and went over the pictures with him and told him out good they were,” said Ryker’s mom, Tressa Crow.

“It feels amazing because that’s really what I want to do, is make an impression of what is Christmas, what is St. Nicholas. I talk about it, but I also try to exemplify it,” Nichols said.

It’s why families like the Crows looks for Nichols’ Santa when the holiday rolls around.

“He really takes his time with kids and makes them feel important and I really enjoyed that and how patient he was,” said Tressa.


“That’s how he is. That’s the kind of person he is, he’s not acting. He’s just a really super amazing, humble guy,” Fasching said.

Nichols’ hopes he’ll be playing Santa for the city of Billings for years to come.

“It is truly an honor to be St. Nicholas and it’s something that is really a privilege and the way that we’ve been welcomed by this town, being a native son, but also being a spirit of Christmas, has been amazing,” said Nichols.

Nichols’ final appearance as Santa at Holiday Nights at ZooMontana will be this Sunday night from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

If you’d like to reach out to Nichols for his Santa services after the holidays or for next year, you can text or call at (406) 325-1891 or visit his official Facebook page.