When my wife passed away some six years ago she left me to be the caretaker of about 300 Santa Clauses. Three-hundred is a lot but only a drop in the bucket for some serious collectors. I know one person who begins setting up her Santas after Halloween and doesn't get finished until late December...then she takes them all down in January and February. Now her collection is serious and has various themes...international Santas, antique Santas, fabric Santas, carved Santas, Santa's workshop, and on and on.
My wife's collecting was wide ranging and very eclectic. She had her large fabric Santas that stood on the mantel and a series of handmade ceramic Santas arranged as a (large) centerpiece on the dining room table but she had some pretty outlandish ones as well. There were a few mice dressed up as Santa and some rustic hand-carved (crudely whittled) Santas. There was a large, hand-blown, glass Santa and a Pueblo "Story-teller" Santa. One year, as a joke (I thought), I bought her a large-proportioned pig dressed up in full Santa regalia. Rather than find it amusing, he was welcomed into the fold and prominently displayed. Each year we looked forward to the arrival the pig Santa.
I always stayed out of her way when she was putting the Santas out for Christmas. She was a whirlwind and, surprisingly, she could get them all placed somewhere in a single day. We had Santas in the bathrooms, Santas in the bedrooms, bookshelves were rearranged for more Santas. With her passing I was at a loss with what to do with so many Santas. I'd carry a few around and stick them in various places but my heart wasn't in it. Too many memories, I guess.
I tried to convince my daughter that she really needed a Santa collection. She came to the house and went home with one that she said was her favorite. So now I had 299 Santas. Plan B was to get various nieces to take some...divide the collection up among a few relatives. That didn't work either. The Santas had no real monetary value for resale and the nieces had no particular interest or memory of the Santa displays because they all lived about 200 miles away and we always traveled to see them at Christmas.
Finally, being a widowed empty-nester, I decided to sell the house and downsize -- clearly, something had to happen with those Santas. In the course of selling my house I mentioned to a Real Estate Agent that I had a bunch of Santas and no place to go with them. She ended up buying over two-thirds of the collection because she would use them for "staging" homes that were being shown over the Christmas holidays. Well, that's not exactly what I had in mind but she was excited to get them and they would be displayed somewhere and not sit in boxes in a storage unit. I kept about twenty and that's a number that I can manage. I figured quality was better than quantity and selected some that I really liked or that I recalled that my wife particularly liked.
I ended up moving twice in ten months but now I'm finally settled into a smaller house. The Serbian and Latvian and Belgian and Mexican and Italian and Norwegian Santas are all gone but that’s fine. The music box Santas and the rustic Santas are gone to new homes. My Santas came out of storage this past week and they survived the 1,000 mile move with only a few scrapes...and a missing hand. Luckily, I found the hand and got him back in shape. I have several of the fabric Santas and I kept the ceramic table-top Santas. I have one of the mouse Santas and an "Elizabethan" Santa. I don't think there were Santas in Shakespeare's day but what the hell...go for it. Of course, the large pig Santa survives and has a prominent spot by the fireplace, right where he belongs.
Causes Ken Hartke Supports
Save the Children, The Girl Effect, Banning and removal of Landmines, National Trust for Historic Preservation. public broadcasting