When Stephen Grammer was 15 years old, he began a holiday tradition that has continued well into adulthood.
The Schuyler Central High School principal collects Santa Claus figurines.
“I started collecting them everywhere I would travel,” Grammer said.
His home now features 175 Santas, made from a variety of materials, from across the United States.
“I have a few from Florida, Pennsylvania and Kansas,” he said. “One year my wife Laurie and I visited Estes Park. We looked for Santas there, but couldn’t find one to bring home. I found the perfect one in Seward, so you could say we traveled hundreds of miles to buy a Santa from Seward.”
The Kris Kringle theme fits Grammer for a couple of reasons.
“For one, I like how they look,” he said. “But I also think I look a little like Santa now, so I’ll keep collecting them.”
A couple of the Santas came from a metalworking plant in Pennsylvania.
“When the company shut down, the workers were able to learn a different trade with the metal that was left,” Grammer said. “So they made a lot of decorations, including a few Santas. Now I have two of those Santas made by the company workers."
Grammer also got his wife Laurie hooked on the hobby. She has collected miniature Department 56 buildings for 36 years.
“Stephen bought me my first house when we first started dating,” Laurie said. “That’s how that all started. He keeps buying me the houses and I arrange them in the way that I like them to be.”
It usually takes Laurie about four weeks to set up the display.
Her set of North Pole villages purchased in Estes Park is arranged along a mantle, with some of the pieces holding a special meaning.
“I have a peanut brittle factory up there that reminds me of my grandmother,” she said. “She would always make peanut brittle — it was one of her favorite things. I also have several gardening houses and bakeries in my collection. I enjoy both crafts, so I wanted to incorporate that into the decorations."
A display case in the living room holds her Charles Dickens-inspired village.
“I have one case that tells the whole 'Christmas Carol' story,” Laurie said. “There is Scrooge doing what he does best, and the little boy with the Christmas ham.”
Another display case features even more Department 56 items.
The Grammers come from a long line of collectors. Stephen’s grandmother decorated her home with angels and Laurie’s parents owned a costume shop, which led to a love of collecting clown-related items.
“So many of these houses hold a special tie to me and our family,” Laurie said. “Everything we collect has a certain connection to our kids, parents and grandparents. Every Christmas item we have collected, and continue to collect, represents something of our own story. Everything has a reason.”