It's a collection that started on a whim 25 years ago.
Now it's evolved into a DeSoto woman's mission to find happiness and representation in a classic Christmas icon.
Pat Jenkins Hamilton is proud to share her Santa Claus collection with the world.
"I 'Santa shop' year-round,” she said.
Her home is filled with upwards of 700 Santa Claus decorations.
"There are at least 250, possibly more on my Christmas tree, all by itself,” she said.
She doesn’t collect just any kind of Santa. She searches only for Black Santa Claus.
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“It means everything to see that representation, to have that representation,” she said. “As I was growing up, I had no idea.”
Hamilton, who retired from a career in education, said her desire to collect started in 1996 with her first Santa sighting at a trade show in Dallas.
“I was working for Dallas ISD and we had a conference at the World Trade Center. They have those showrooms throughout the center,” she said. “I could not believe it. So from that moment on, I went on the hunt. It’s been on since then.”
Some Santas ride bicycles or roller skates. Others are filled with cookies or climb a ladder up the tree. She even has a Santa that twerks.
When she first started collecting, she said finding Black Santa at stores was difficult throughout the 1990s.
“I like the fact that there are many more available now” she said. “And still not enough. I hope the retailers understand there’s a shortage and relay that to the manufacturers.”
That's why her mission to collect has stayed strong over the years – it’s turned into a fun hobby to find joy and representation in the holidays.
"I had no idea that Santa could look like me, have the same shade, the same skin, the same hair. That brought me to tears when I saw that first Santa,” she recalls. “I called everybody and said God there is a Santa that looks like us!"
Her visitors have also been moved to tears upon seeing her collection.
“A gentleman who was here – a retired military veteran who has traveled the world several times – he stood at the top of my stairs with tears streaming down his face. And he said, ‘I have never ever in my life seen anything like this. It’s unbelievable,’” she said. “He brought his wife, daughter and grandsons who were college students. They were blown away.”
She hopes children and families of color can find the same happiness she feels in her home.
“I think it’s very, very important that all children be exposed to a Santa that looks like them,” she said. “That makes me so happy and so worth it for me to have something to offer. I have something to give, you can share in my joy and my happiness when you see my Santa collection.”
Hamilton's goal is to collect 1,000 Santas. She's well on her way.
“There’s no question in my mind, I will be collecting until I run out of space and I don’t think that that’s about to happen yet!" she said.