I believe in Santa.  This is evident as I unpack the 100s of Santas I have in my house today.  As I look at each one, a memory snaps into my mind and I am taken back 10 years, 30 years, 50 or 60  years…

I only have one photo of me as a child with Santa.  My brother and I are visiting him and it’s hard to say what I’m thinking.  I was five years old. But, I do know that I was a little girl who believed all the fairy tales and Santa stories I read.  My friend, Hal Balch, gave me a copy of The Night Before Christmas for my 6th birthday and I still have it.  It was an oversized pop-up book and I saw it (in better condition than mine) on eBay for $350 one time.  I read it to my four kids every year on Christmas Eve.


My birthday is in December and I got married on December 23, so December is a month for me to celebrate.  I bought a funny little Santa on sale before I got married and put him on the top of our first Christmas tree, which was right around our first anniversary.  I still put him on my Christmas tree.  I don’t know why I put Santa rather than a star or an angel, but he seemed to fit up there with his funny little smile.


One year, as a young mother, I read a ladies magazine article on decorating for the holidays and it said to group your collections.  I looked around and saw that I had accumulated a lot of Santas and so it began.  I was a Santa collector.  I know lots of Santa collectors and every one of us has a unique collection.  Some like hand crafted Santas, some collect vintage Santas.  I am beyond eclectic.  I have Santas from everywhere and every price.  Some of my favorites cost a couple of dollars, some are flea market finds, some were created by Santa artists.

The thing about having a lot of Santas, for better or worse, is that people start giving you Santas, especially when your birthday is in December. Some of my favorites are from dear friends and I remember those friendships every Christmas as I pass each funky little guy.

Santas were a fun thing to look for when I traveled.  I have Santa matchbooks from a department store in Paris, and this crazy Santa in a car that I got for $5 on a street in Hong Kong.  What a fun way to remember special trips.


I found the Santa on the left in a flea market in Vienna and the troll Santa is from Denmark.  I have Lego Santas I got in Switzerland.  I learned how universal my beloved guy is.


I have Santas from my childhood, with the earliest being the tall skinny one here behind the cow Santa we found in New Orleans.


When my mother died, I brought these funny little Santas home with me.  I think she got the trees at Neiman Marcus and the Santas probably held candy at one time.  All I know is that they remind me of Christmas at home.


There are Santas I made…these are needlepoint.



There are Santas with stories.  One summer, times were rough as they sometimes are in families.  My oldest daughter, my son and I were at the flea market, killing time on a Saturday morning.  We spotted the big vintage lighted Santa face.  I think it was $30 and we had $32.  I asked them what they thought and they both said to get it.  You know what?  Everything got better after we got that Santa.  He is a bright light to remind me that we can always get through life’s ups and downs with love and hope.


My kids gave me Santas through the years.  I love this one that my son gave me for my birthday the year he was 13.  I always picture him finding it in a craft booth.  Sweet memory.


My husband gave me Santas.  In 1997, our three daughters each had a son, making us grandparents.  That year, Alan was battling cancer.  He brought me a Waterford Santa for my birthday, a Santa with a little boy in his lap.

My Santas are grouped around the house, all over the house.  There are bathing Santas in the bathroom, Santa bears, Santa rabbits, Santa’s workshops, Santa boxes, sleeping Santas, Santa bells…each with his own story.



DSC_0019If you have forgotten or never knew the magic of finding presents from Santa, you may not understand.  Even when I knew better, even when I should have been too old to get that excited, I would lie in bed and listen for my parents’ steps as they put out the gifts.  I would lie in bed and wait until all was silent again and sneak to the fireplace to see the Christmas lights and marvel at the gifts.  It didn’t matter what they were – there was something magical about it.  I would go back to bed, lying there basking in the wonder of it all, waiting until my brother and sister got up and we would all go in together.

You can understand when I say I never did have the “Santa discussion” with my kids.  What difference would that have made?  Santa was always going to come to our house.  I may have told them it was up to them whether they wanted to believe or not.  One of my favorite memories was the year my son got a special bike – he may have been 10 or 11.  The kids woke us, way too early, and we all came downstairs together.  I remember him saying, in the most excited voice, “Did you see what I got?  Look at this?”  I was struck with the magic that he was thinking his father and I were as surprised as he was that the bike was there,  I just smiled at him.

It was a shock when I found myself alone on Christmas mornings, but it’s ok and the way the world is supposed to be.  We still have Grand Santa at my house with stockings for everyone.   We’re up to 16 stockings now for my children, their spouses and the grandkids.

When I was in my 20s, I volunteered with a group called Junior Philharmonic and our fundraiser was Santa House.  I worked at it for several years and often dressed as an elf, where I discovered the magic of children who really believed I was an elf!  There’s nothing like looking into the eyes of an innocent two or three year old who thinks you work for the man himself.

1973Years later, I went to work for Philbrook Museum of Art as the Fundraising Events Manager and part of my job was to make sure Santa was at the annual Festival of Trees.  I thought I’d come full circle – back to Santa.  I can truly say that I am a close associate of Santa.  I retired, but it was fun to see my three year old granddaughter trying to take in the fact that Santa was hugging her Mimi.  We’re old friends, I told her.

Eliza, Whitney, Karen & Santa - Version 2

So, I sit amongst my collection and drink in the special vibes that the Santas (and other holiday characters and my nativity sets) bring to my holidays.  I remember childhood, friendships, trips and experiences from every decade of my life.  When it’s time to pack them away, I’m always ready because I’ve got to go on to the new year and live it before I bring them out again.

The stories of my Santas are the story of my life.  They represent friendships, groups I’ve worked with, jobs I’ve had, and my family.  When the Santas are packed away, there are other things with other memories that I keep around me.  It’s the clutter of my life that I wade through, knowing that I am lucky to have so much to cherish.

May you celebrate your life this season surrounded by all you love.