The real Mrs. Claus decks this whimsical Christmas kitchen with a jolly lot of Santa collectibles.
By Jean Davis
Bryson City, North Carolina
I tell everyone I’m married to Santa Claus—just one look at his picture and you’ll see why! My husband, Mack, is a property inspector by trade, but he has so much fun dressing up every Christmas that I sometimes suspect being Santa Claus is his real vocation.
That’s what inspired me to start the collection that goes up in my kitchen every year right after Thanksgiving. I started collecting after we got married, in 1987, and it just took off. When we built our house in the mountains, we specifically chose an open kitchen and dining room with lots of space to display my Santas.
Looking out the doors to our deck and yard may not put you in the Christmas spirit—we don’t usually get snow until January. But inside, it’s a different story!
Santa Is Everywhere
I have Santas that sing, dance and play musical instruments. One is taking a bubble bath. Another, tucked in bed, snores. Some are tiny, some are tall, some are elegant and some are whimsical. The jolly figures smile down from above my cabinets and along my shelves, and Santa’s face grins cheerfully from my dishtowels. Mrs. Claus accompanies some of the figures, and that’s fitting. I’ve been dressing as Mrs. C to accompany Mack since 1994.
We bought many of our Santas during our travels—Mack and I used to drive an 18-wheeler. Others came from family and friends. Most of the Santas adorn our kitchen and dining area, but we keep a few on our tree and in the living room. My favorite? It’s on my dining room hutch. When you push the red button, Santa’s coat opens and you see a small Christmas tree with a Santa and a sleeping child revolving around it. And as you watch, you hear a reading of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.
A Winter Wonderland
Kids, of course, love my Santas, and plenty come to see them each year. Mack and I each have four children, and together we have 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. In addition, I’m a retired physical education teacher and coach, and I still substitute teach in the local schools. Each December, I invite the teachers of the exceptional-needs classes to bring their students to our house for lunch. The children sit on Mack’s knee to tell him what they want for Christmas, and we give each a small treat. It’s a wonderful time for everyone.
We don’t limit our entertaining to holiday time, though. I like to cook, I like to bake, I like people and I like to share what I make with them! That meant I needed kitchen colors that would work year-round. I chose a neutral beige-and-white linoleum flooring, white cabinets with butcher-block countertops and white for my walls.
It sets off the Santas nicely, but also makes a good backdrop the rest of the year, when sunflowers, apples and birds rule the roost. Guests always ask how long it takes me to change out the decor, and wonder where the Santas stay the rest of the year. I pack them carefully away into containers that I keep in an 8- by 10-foot storage shed. It takes me the better part of a week to take everything down and replace it.
But it’s a labor of love, literally! And although I’m always a little sad to say good-bye to my Santas when I take them down on New Year’s Day, I know it won’t be long until I’m pulling them out again. Besides, when you get right down to it, my real Santa’s never far from my kitchen, at any time of year!
Click for a better look at Jean’s Christmas kitchen’s floor plan.
Photography by A.J. Boyd. Floor plan illustration by Bob Gaszak.