Every holiday season, the house of Karen and Richard Fleming turns into a wonderland with 1,757 Christmas decorations scattered throughout their home. Of those decorations, 834 of them are Santa related.
This passion for Santa that started at a young age for Karen Fleming eventually grew into a lifelong hobby for both Karen and her husband Richard.
“I was probably 14 or 15 when I bought a few Santas because I would make or buy Santas for my brother’s kids,” Karen said. “So then I would continue to buy more and more, then it ended up growing into this big collection. Then Richard and I got married and the collection grew exponentially larger over time.”
The collection of Santas began on Christmas Day in 1960. They continue to add to their collection every holiday season, while also ensuring that every Santa is unique.
“We always try to make sure that no two Santas are the same,” Richard said.
The Fleming’s collection started in Seattle, then moved with them to Tukwila, Washington before ultimately moving with them to Woodstock. The collection of Santas starts outside, with a few Santas displayed at different windows.
The collection of Santas can be seen throughout the house, with every room filled with Santas and Christmas decorations as far as the eye can see.
Upon entering the house, a row of Santas and various stuffed animals can be seen neatly organized and lined-up the staircase.
To the right of the staircase, the Fleming’s have a patriotic room. A tree decorated with red, white and blue and American Flags sits in a corner, along with a Santa that was a gifted to them. Red, white and blue snowmen, as well as Hawaiian themed Santa’s are displayed in the room as well.
On the table that sits in the middle of the room, an article is displayed showcasing a picture of Uncle Sam, except, it is no ordinary picture.
“We display an article that we saved that is about my grandfather during World War I,” Karen said. “After the First World War, 19,000 soldiers, including my grandfather, gathered in various positions, with their jackets either on or off to make Uncle Sam’s head. I added this to the collection of patriotic items this year.”
Other items on the table include 110-year-old postcards written to Richard’s grandmother when she was a young woman, a coin from a family friend who recently became a captain of a Navy vessel and several other items.
The hallway leading to the family room is filled with various Santas, with not one looking like the other.
The room to the left of the hallway is filled with various types of Christmas and Santa decorations. A tree surrounded by Santa’s and seating with Santa and Christmas pillows fills the rest of the space.
A small “Peanuts” table is on display in another hallway. The infamous Charlie Brown Christmas Tree sits on top of the table along with characters from the Peanuts series. Also on display below the table is a Snoopy made from milk cartons and various other items. The Snoopy milk jug was created decades ago by Karen’s mother.
The decorated Christmas tree in the family room is surrounded by a small village that Richard has continuously worked on for decades. A remote control train drives around the village. To the left of the tree, Santa can be seen hanging onto the ledge of an opening.
Several pro and college teams from the state of Washington are represented on the shelf. There are also Santas displayed that were some of the first ones Karen ever bought in 1960.
The two oldest Santas in the house are displayed over the fireplace. The second oldest Santa in the house is 104 years old. It was bought by Richard’s mother on Christmas day of 1915. The oldest Santa is 153 years old. It was bought on Christmas day of 1866 by a woman named Lola Poust, a grandmother of one of Karen’s friends.
The display to the right of the fireplace continues the display of various types and sizes of Santa, ranging from Gumby Santas to antique Santas.
The Flemings also have a collection of golfing Santas that are displayed in the family room.
A small tree with cardinals is in the kitchen that Karen dedicates to her father because of his love of birds. A big Santa stands beside the tree, with realistic eyes that will frighten anyone who looks at him.
The kitchen has Santa cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, utensils and other smaller items that add to the Santa collection.
Items in the house have come from the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Hawaii, just to name a few. Every Santa has a number on the bottom of it, as well as the other decorations throughout the house.
Not every Santa was bought. Many of the Santas were given to the Flemings as a gift.
“It’s the fun of the hunt,” Karen said. “It’s great to find new ones you don’t already have or one made out of a different material.”
The process of putting each item in place is a long and challenging one, but Karen and Richard both still love to display their 60-year-old collection, with hopes to increase the collection and display them proudly as long as they are able to. The decorations are stored in their attic after Christmas.
“It takes about three weeks to put the decorations up and then take them down,” Karen said. We’re not getting any younger, so they’ll be a point where we have to stop. But, until that time comes, we will continue to collect. My goal is to reach 1,000 Santas.”