Have you ever had a vision for something that took decades to realize? Let me share a story with you that I wrote in 2007.
Have you ever wondered what Santa’s house looks like? I can just imagine how it must be. Part of the fun I have as Santa Claus has evolved as I have tried to create my own interpretation of Santa’s house.
It all started innocently enough when I began collecting Santa Claus memorabilia because of my admiration of the gift-giver from the North Pole. Then, a number of artists began asking me to pose for paintings they wished to create of Santa Claus. Of course, being an art dealer and collector myself, I wanted examples of those paintings and even purchased some of the originals. Many friends, family members and even business associates have also given me Santa figurines – some of which are very impressive, and large!
Before long, my collection was in every room of our house and my wife finally put her foot down. Her response to my growing collection was, “I want the celebration of Christmas in our home to be about the birth of Jesus, and not about Santa Claus.” She really put me in my place! I am the first to agree with her that Christmas is about the birth of our Savior. I honestly believe being Santa Claus is my calling − to honor Christ by sharing His birth and life with others. But somehow, in my wife’s eyes, I had let the gift-giver replace the “Giver of Life!” I had to do something.
So that is how my Santa Claus House came to be. You see, we have a garage apartment behind our home that has been used over the years for several purposes. We have leased it to tenants, which was more responsibility than we liked. We used it for several years as an office for our publishing company and later as a frame shop for our art gallery. When our son and first granddaughter, Carrie, needed a place to live, it became their home. What better place to house my Santa collection than the place our family affectionately call “The Little House”?
The Little House is a gem. It was built some time during the 1940’s as an addition to our home (which was built by an architect in 1927). Made of brick and framing, it is two stories and has about 950 square feet. A small kitchen, dining area, and a living room are on the first floor and two bedrooms and a bath are upstairs. All the interior walls, cabinets and shelves downstairs are made of beautiful knotty pine which was popular in the 1940s. The living room has a rounded corner fireplace faced with fieldstone native to North Carolina.
Of course, Santa’s house needs a Christmas tree up all year long! On the tree I was able to hang most of the Christmas ornaments collected over the years. On the mantel over the fireplace hang nine stockings, one for each of our grandchildren − Carrie, Robby, Maddie, Rachael and Daniel − and one for each of our adopted grand-children, Drew, Allie, Billy and Abby. All around the room, on every shelf, are Santa Claus dolls and figurines. On the walls hang the paintings of Santa created by my friends.
Finally, the Christmas tree could not hold any more ornaments, so a second, identical tree was selected for the other side of the fireplace. Now when I turn on the light switch in the living room, both trees immediately come to life; lights glow, animated ornaments move, and musical ones play Christmas music. Even the paintings become illuminated. The whole room takes on a feeling of magic.
Every respectful Santa must have a desk where he can take care of paperwork (or work on lists). Mine was inherited from my mother, who inherited it from her parents, who inherited it from their parents. It is my understanding the desk is over 150 years old and was used by my great-grandfather, Dr. Harry S. White, who was a professor of calligraphy and penmanship at a business school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. What an appropriate provenance for Santa’s personal desk. I treasure this heirloom; a diminutive drop-front desk made of beautifully aged cherry wood. The drawers have cut-glass pulls, and some have secret compartments behind them. Inside the desk are Santa’s correspondence tools – a goose-quill pen, stationery, and a pottery inkwell.
Other furnishings in Santa’s House are heirloom antiques as well. A red-velvet Victorian love seat and chair fit quite well, giving more ambiance to the fantasy setting.
So now, in my mind and heart, my “little house” must look just like Santa’s House. My next project is to hang Christmas lights on the outside and turn them on at various times of the year (not just at Christmas).
Even though I have given you a complete description of my little “Santa’s House,” there’s more to the big picture. A few years ago, frustrated with not having enough time to decorate our house for Christmas, I bought a large, pre-lit Christmas tree on sale. I took the two boxes home and put them in the living room of the “big house.” There those boxes sat until one day in October the next year, when our “adopted” grandchildren were visiting. Since they were looking for something to do while waiting for their parents and my wife to return, I suggested we put up the Christmas tree. With great excitement, we began unpacking the boxes. The three of us worked all day putting the sections together and hanging the ornaments before time to place the angel atop the tree. That is when I realized we needed the taller ladder. Our Christmas tree stood well over twelve feet tall! It is a good thing we have a twenty-foot ceiling in that room.
Apprehensive about what my wife’s reaction would be, we anxiously waited…but first, we turned on the tree lights. We were so excited we could hardly stand it. When she came in, she exclaimed, “It’s beautiful!” My instant reply was, “Good, because it’s not coming down!
Several years ago, when most of my collection had been moved into its new home, we bought a large Nativity set made of sandstone and arranged it on our hearth in the living room of the “big house.” It stays there year-round (along with the twelve-foot tree) to remind us of the real meaning of Christmas. Over the mantel is a large painting of “Noah’s Ark” reminding us of God’s mercy when He gave mankind another chance through the obedience of Noah.
Yesterday was Memorial Day. Seven of our grand-children spent the weekend with us and I thought it was a great time to turn on the Christmas tree lights. After all, it was a holiday! Turning the tree lights on, I noticed all the hand-made ornaments collected from our children and grand-children over the years. The Nativity set was on our hearth and the painting of “Noah’s Ark” over the fireplace. I entered the dining room and sat down to say grace with my family. How appropriate it was to thank God, on Memorial Day, for the men and women who gave their lives defending the freedom we have to celebrate Christmas all year long if we want to.
Yes, I know the Real Meaning of Christmas, and as for me and my household,.we will celebrate it year round!
Now, through the genius of my Santa photographer Larry Hersberger, you can even virtually visit with me in my "Santa House."