Julie Janzen of rural Hillsboro grew up in a family that loved Christmas. It was only natural that her happy memories and love of the season morphed into a collection of one of the most admired icons of Christmas-– Santa Claus. Over the past 15 years, Janzen, along with her husband, Corey, collected 172 Santa Claus figurines and memorabilia, and the number continues to grow.
“My mother was really big on Christmas,” Janzen said. “Every year on the Stauffer side we always had a Santa come to the house. I have so many fun and happy memories of those times.”
For Janzen, Christmas became a rather bittersweet time of the year after her mother died five years ago.
“We found out she had cancer on Dec. 5,” she said. “She was gone by January 4 and that last Christmas together was very sad.”
Still, Janzen said that getting out her ever-growing collection of Santa Clauses each year helps her remember happier times and fills her with holiday spirit. She said she puts their regular cowboy-themed house decorations away over Thanksgiving vacation and gets out the Santas to take their places on shelves, along the mantel, in the kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, on the floor … everywhere.
“They used to just fill the living room,” she said. “But now I have them everywhere. It’s so much fun to find a place for everything.”
Janzen said each Santa does not have a special place and might be arranged differently each year. However, she knows pertinent information about each one and can tell who gave it to her or where it came from.
“My favorite Santa is one my mom gave me the year before she died,” she said. “She brought it back from Branson, Mo., for me.”
Other favorites include the first one she and Corey got together when they were dating. Their purchase was a cowboy Santa dressed in a red suit with rugged black boots and a fancy belt buckle. Swinging hips accentuate the Allen Jackson country song he crones when his buttons are pushed.
“We spent $50 on him,” she said. “That is probably the most we have ever spent on a Santa.”
Most of Janzen’s collection has come as gifts from friends and family through the years. She inherited about 25 Santa collectibles from one of her mother’s friends when she was downsizing her household about 15 years ago. Janzen said she and Corey always look for a special Santa or two to buy each year as well.
“Average cost is about $10 to $25,” she said. “I don’t like to spend more than that, and sometimes I get lucky and find some special ones for much less.”
Just this year, she found an Eskimo Santa in full fur dress at a local thrift shop and a camouflage Santa at the dollar store.
“I just love these guys,” she said. “Their faces are always so cute and happy. They bring peace to my heart.”
Items in Janzen’s Santa collection range in size from two inches to over five feet tall. Some are considered antique, others are old world style, sports themed, hunting, modern, cross-stitched, neon-lit, ceramic, fancy, odd, backwoods, and everything in between.
“Out of all of these, I only have one duplicate,” she said. “It’s the dinner bell Santa and I had to have two of those to make a set.”
Janzen said her oldest Santa was likely a large, plastic, outdoor figurine which her brother and sister-in-law brought her from an estate sale. Another old one looked to be made from a gourd and was found at a garage sale.
“When I go shopping, they just about scream at me, ‘Here I am, get me,’” she said.
Corey and Julie Janzen’s son, 9-year-old Jared, also gets excited about getting the Santas out at Christmas.
“He always loves it when it’s time to bring them out,” she said. “Even though he has grown up with them, each year it is a very exciting time when we bring them down from storage upstairs and find places to put them.”
Janzen, who works full time at the Hillsboro Hospital with the specialty clinic and in the central sterile processing unit, said she was still working on finding time to get her Christmas tree up and put on her Santa Claus ornaments.
“I would guess 90 percent of them are Santas,” she said. “You can never have too many.”