- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

KINDER, La. (AP) - Santa Claus is always watching at Jeremy and Katy Poe’s house around Christmastime.

Santas abound throughout the house. From the lighted Santa toilet seat cover in the bathroom to the Santa cookie jars lining the shelves in the dining room, the fat, jolly man in the red suit keeps watch from his perch.

“There’s always been something about Santa Claus,” Jeremy Poe, 39, said while wearing a red Santa sweatshirt.

Collecting the Santas is a fascination Poe formed as a young boy helping his grandparents decorate their home for Christmas.

“We always had Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ and as soon as it was over with we’d switch,” he said. “My grandmother would get all the Christmas stuff out, and we’d start decorating.”

Poe continued his grandmother’s love for holiday decorating, adding to his own collection each year.

His North 11th Street home and yard are filled with colorful lights, candy canes and other festive decorations, but it is his Santa collection that steals the show each year.

The home is a haven for the almost 600 items of Santa memorabilia that make up his vast collection. “We had a Christmas tree up in the living room before we had any furniture moved in,” Poe said.

Santas line shelves in Poe’s kitchen; they fill display cases in the living and dining rooms; they hang from doorways and on the Christmas tree; and they greet visitors on the front porch. Twenty Santas, mostly animated and musical ones, keep a watchful eye in the bathroom.

They are all different shapes, sizes and colors. Some are big, others small. Some are fat, others skinny; some are new and others are old.

Some are hand painted ceramic, others carved of wood. Some are soft and fluffy.

Many of the collectibles come from friends and family who know exactly what to give him for birthdays and Christmas, he said. Others, he picks up at gift shops and flea markets on vacation.

The oldest item in the collection is the Santa suit he wore as a baby. A doll wears it now. The doll is tucked inside the red Christmas stocking the couple brought their daughter, Katilyn, home in from the hospital on Christmas Eve 13 years ago.

A Santa ornament he had as a boy adorns the branches of one of four Christmas trees in the home, and the Santa blocks he made in high school sit nearby, as does his grandmother’s old ceramic sleeping Santa candy dish.

“I remember putting this one out,” Poe said. “It’s been broke and glued back together so many times.”

His mother’s Christmas china, grandmother’s Christmas table runner and a collection of Coca Cola memorabilia add special touches to the display, which also features hundreds of Santa figurines, plates, mugs, photos, night lights, pillows and throws.

There are Santas from around the world; Santas fishing and riding motorcycles; and Santas dancing and singing. He adorns wreaths, door hangers, candles, birdhouses, wind chimes and book covers.

Daughter Jillian, 9, still enjoys the Santas and helps put them out every year. “My favorite is the crab shell on the tree,” she said, explaining its painted like Santa Claus, but made from a crab shell.

Visitors to Poe’s home are amazed at the showcase of Santas. “Most people can’t believe it when they see all the Santas,” he said. “They want to know where I store it all.”

Poe carefully wraps and stores most of the collection in boxes in a bedroom closet. He gets the Santa collection out every year around Thanksgiving and carefully puts them away after the holidays.

A tree in the corner of the dining room is left up all year and is decorated for other holidays and seasons throughout the year. “As soon as Christmas is over, we start decorating it for Mardi Gras,” he said. The Mardi Gras decorations are followed by spring, summer and fall decor.

Poe’s decorative creativity does not stop at his home. He is also responsible for decorating at Coushatta Casino Resort - a task he has fulfilled for 13 years. This year he helped decorate a 28-foot tree at Koasati Plaza in Elton, along with more than 30 trees throughout the casino properties.

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