At this time of year, a child stepping into Debra Lilly’s home could be overwhelmed by the thought that Santa Claus “knows if you’ve been bad or good,” because in Lilly’s house, Santa Claus is just about everywhere.
Lilly, of Peabody, has been collecting Santa Claus figures for more than 30 years and they cover every imaginable surface during the Christmas season.
However, as she looks over the figures, she admits to having a hard time picking a favorite.
Holding a small porcelain Father Christmas figure that doubles as a music box, Lilly noted the collection began with that figure.
“My husband, Russ, gave me this one in 1974,” she said. “I didn’t really set out to collect Santas — it just happened.
“After this one, Russ got one for the kids to give me for many years. Then friends and other family members added to the collection and I began picking them up when I saw one that caught my eye.”
Lilly has 61 Santas and she displays them all every Christmas. Her collection also has been the focal point of some downtown window and store displays. Over the years she has added sleighs, trees, garland, and some Victorian era toys to enhance the collection.
Her Santa figures range in size from just a couple of inches to about three feet tall and they are made from a variety of materials.
“I don’t limit myself to one style,” Lilly said. “They are all different. If I am picking one out to buy for myself, I don’t really look for any particular characteristic. I just know when I see it that it is right.
“But most come from friends and family and I am never disappointed by their choices.”
Lilly said she is more drawn to the older Father Christmas style, but one of her favorites is a rag doll Santa made by a friend Susie Schmidt.
“And I have a chocolate Santa a friend in Germany sent me about four years ago,” she added. “He gets re-wrapped and put in the refrigerator every year after the holidays.”
Another one she treasures is a 1950s-style Santa in a sleigh, given to her by a favorite aunt.
“Last year, Marty McGaugh gave me an African-American Santa,” she said.
Each new Santa comes with a friendship, a story, or a family relationship making it more than just an addition to a growing collection.
“And this wall hanging with the long beard I got just last week from my brother. I love the look of this one,” she added. “I guess, really, it’s impossible to pick a favorite — there is something special about each one of them.”