There's no hiding from Santa at Ann Mullins' house - with more than 100 Santa figures on display through the holidays, every nook and cranny is under the eye of the jolly old elf.
It takes Mrs. Mullins and her husband, Russell - who humors her collection - more than two weeks to set up all the Santas. They started before Thanksgiving. She began collecting the figures almost 25 years ago and purchased many for bargain prices when she worked at Rich's department store. Not only did she get her employee discount, but she'd keep an eye out for end-of-season sales.
"I used to see one and I'd pray that it would still be there," she said. "The day after Christmas, I'd race to that department to see what was left."
Visitors find themselves under Father Christmas' benevolent gaze the minute they set foot in the Oak Creek home. The Williamsburg Santa - Mrs. Mullins' "pride and joy" - wears a fur-trimmed blue robe and hat and stands facing the front door. To one side, a knee-high Italian Santa with multicolored patchwork robes hefts a bag of toys beside a German Santa carrying a cuckoo clock and a packet of Lebkuchen (gingerbread).
Santa is everywhere in the house - the laundry room features a tuckered-out Claus reclining on a hammock the day after Christmas. A Russian figure in mink-trimmed robes keeps watch over the holiday crystal in the formal dining room. In the kitchen, Santa pours himself a cup of coffee, and in the breakfast nook, a plush, stuffed version spraddles against the door, guarding against drafts.
Mrs. Mullins allows her grandson to choose a Santa for himself from her collection, and he wanted the draft guard this year, she said. He'll have to wait until after Christmas.
Many of the figures match the tone or style of the room where Mrs. Mullins has them displayed. In the sun room, decorated with rabbits and flowers, a Bunny Santa stands, ears exposed, holding the "human" mask he just took off. In the cozy den, reminiscent of a hunting lodge, an Alpine village features a set of Swiss Santas, while a fishing Santa stands beside the wet bar.
Other figures have special meaning to the family. Mrs. Mullins bought the nautical Santa in the master bathroom (he's dressed in captain's garb and holds a life preserver) for her husband, who loves water skiing.
The collection will continue to grow, Mrs. Mullins predicted.
"I've already got one scoped out for this year," she said with a laugh.
Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org