In the kitchen, there are measuring cups and spoons in the shape of Santa. There are plates and glasses and a cooking timer. A shelf in the dining room is full only of bells that feature the Jolly Old Elf. In another corner are stuffed, plastic and toy Santas. The hallway is draped with them. Kris Kringle peeks from an outhouse in the bathroom. Figurines, puppets, nutcrackers, dolls ....
“I have Santas that sing and that dance,” said Donna Andersen. “Just a whole lot of Santas. Santas in every place.”
“That’s a total understatement,” her husband, Wayne, adds from another room.
Since the couple was married in 1954 and received their first Santa Claus figurine as a gift from Wayne’s parents in 1956, Donna has amassed 2,434 Santas — all carefully cataloged in a notebook.
Perhaps her favorite is one she bought in the 80s from Avon that has now become a collector’s item. He reads aloud a series of holiday-themed books. But then, there’s the Nutcracker Santa, and the one her friend made her from a shrunken apple. Her sister created a pattern and sewed her two dolls she refers to the Count and Countess Claus.
While they vary in monetary value, she considers each one a treasure. But not so much that they’re off limits to her 15 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
“A broken Santa is still a Santa,” she reasons.
The couple typically begins just after Thanksgiving setting out the Santas, and it will take them three to four weeks to arrange their decor.
“We’re getting to the age that we don’t give or get many gifts,” Donna said. “To unwrap them each year is like Christmas morning. You go, ‘Wow, I forgot I had this one.’”
To pack them back up, she said, takes even longer, usually around five weeks. Throughout their marriage, the couple estimates they’ve moved probably 40 times — spending the last 16 years in Carson City — following Wayne’s work as a business consultant.
“I pack them up each year ready for a move,” Donna said. “They’re earthquake ready. I seal them up in case there’s a flood, and put my name in there just in case people find them floating down the street, they’ll know who they belong to.”
Throughout their travels, Donna has been featured in newspapers and television newscasts. Her collection was also featured in a display at a Dallas public library. However, she said, she has never lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
“I believe in Jesus,” she said. “I believe Santa is the gift giver, and Jesus is the gift.”