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Published December 19, 2008, 12:00 AM

Not Christmas without Santa

Collection shows holiday spirit
Santa Claus’ base is supposed to be the North Pole, but he definitely has a spot in the home and heart of Vivian Oxton.

By: Helmut Schmidt, The Forum

Santa Claus’ base is supposed to be the North Pole, but he definitely has a spot in the home and heart of Vivian Oxton.

Several hundred spots, really.

Step into the entry of Oxton’s south Moorhead place and you’re greeted by a 6-foot tree decked with scores of Santa ornaments.

Then there are the Santa rugs, Santa portraits and Santa figurines by the dozen.

Above her kitchen cabinets, St. Nicks from around the world gaze out amid eight tiny lighted Christmas trees.

Santa perches on the tables.

Santa sits beside the table.

Santa IS a table.

Glass, ceramic, wood, plastic, lighted, sculpted, cross-stitched, woven, Father Christmas can be found in somewhere between 400 and 500 iterations in her home.

That’s her best guess.

Nobody has really counted them, she said.

“I’ve always liked Santa,” says Oxton, sporting Santa socks and a red Norman Rockwell print Santa shirt.

Oxton, 72, grew up in Debs, Minn., near Bemidji. She liked Christmas and visited Santas at local stores.

But there were no official Christmas Eve visits by a fat guy in a red suit, flying reindeer and a crew of height-challenged workaholics to spark her fixation on Kris Kringle. She simply started 30 years ago, she said.

Now, when Santa visits her place he leaves Santa stuff. Many pieces are gifts from family and friends – about 10 a year, she said.

Oxton is a Santa shopper, too. She’s already got her post-Christmas sale stops mapped out. For her, there is the thrill of the hunt.

“I see something I like, I buy it!” she said.

It takes Oxton a month to put up her collection. She starts in late October and has it in place by Thanksgiving.

“It’s just exciting. Once I get the trees up, then I’m rarin’ to go,” Oxton said. “It makes you feel really good. … A happy, holiday feeling.”

Putting up the display brings back the wonder of childhood, she said. And each ornament received from others sparks memories as it’s removed from storage.

“You know, it’s memories. That’s what it is. The whole thing is memories,” she said.

When the holidays are over, she packs it all away again.

Oxton uses the garage-sale season to bulk up her Santa stash.

Six wooden “stick Santas,” as she calls them, are among her prized garage sale finds. “They’re from different countries,” she said. “They’re different. They’re cool.”

Her husband, James, who died in 2003, “liked it once I got everything up,” but otherwise wasn’t a Santa collector. He stuck to hauling the Santas in and out of storage.

One of Oxton’s daughters, Renae Ingersoll of Moorhead, said her mother has always been excited about Christmas. “She buys gifts all year long for Christmas. She can hardly wait for Christmas.”

When the season hits, it’s parties and gift-giving with family and friends, she said.

“It’s just fun for her and all her friends,” Ingersoll said. “They just can’t get over all the decorations.”

Contemplating the beauty of the Christmas lights, the decorations, and the happiness of the holidays, Oxton said she can’t imagine a world without Santa.

“It wouldn’t be much fun,” she said. “What would you do at Christmas if there wasn’t a Santa?”

Have an idea?

The Farmers’ Forum welcomes submissions for possible feature stories. Send your ideas to: Farmers’ Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107 or by electronic mail to

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583