Belen couple’s Santa Claus collection reaches to more than 300

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Although one Santa Claus stands in front of Denise and Moises Carrillo’s Belen home, it provides a tiny glimpse of the Santa Claus wonderland inside.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Denise and Moises Carrillo stand among the more than 300 Santa Clauses that decorate the couple’s Belen home. The collection was inspired after Denise’s favorite holiday, Christmas, and her love of Santa Claus.

More than 300 Santa Clauses, as well as Mrs. Claus, decorate every nook and cranny inside of the Belen native’s home.

The collection was inspired after Denise’s favorite holiday — Christmas, of course — and her love of Santa Claus.

It takes the Belen Consolidated School’s bus driver about a week to take out the Santas from storage and sprinkle them throughout her home, with most of them displayed in the living room and kitchen.

“When I bring them out, they’re everywhere,” Carrillo said. “I mean, there’s a little walkway, because I have to take them all out to see where I want to put them. You can’t just put them anywhere.”

She does this while listening to Christmas music on the radio and watching holiday cartoons on the television.

Besides checking the naughty and nice list twice and standing next to a red satin bag full of children’s toys, the Santas range in what they can be found doing and from a few inches tall to standing more than four feet.

One is in a snow globe on top of a choo-choo train. Another is dressed in a cowboy’s attire holding a rope. One dances around in a floral lei and hula skirt, while another is bundled up in a gloves, a scarf and a hat while skiing down steep slopes.

The Santas span the materials they are made out of, including wood, porcelain and tin. He’s on every surface imaginable, including buckets, plates, cups, salt and pepper shakers, oven covers, rugs and even toilet bowls.

The angel tree topper was even replaced with a Santa tree topper, once the couple found the perfect one.

Their dogs, Snickers and Sugar, run around the home in their holiday outfits. Snickers is dressed as Santa Claus and Sugar as Mrs. Claus.

Carrillo bought the first Santa Claus 18 years ago after her daughter, Ashlee, was born. That year, Carrillo and her husband bought Mr. and Mrs. Claus, which light up and sing Christmas carols.

The couple bought the Christmas pair as a way to decorate their home and make the holidays special for their children.

The couple, married for more than 23 years, added one Santa Claus to their growing collection each year. That number didn’t expand to the 310 Santas the have today until about six years ago when friends and family began buying Carrillo the iconic Christmas character, as well.

“I get excited for every new one I get,” Carrillo said with a smile on her face.

Even as a young girl, Denise’s favorite holiday was Christmas. She was the one decorating her parent’s home during the holiday season.

“She’s always loved Santas,” Moises said.

When Carillo had children of her own, she had them write letters to Santa, which they would receive responses from, and make sure to leave out cookies and milk for the jolly man.

“We never actually put gifts out until Christmas morning,” she said. “We would get up early and put everything in the stockings.

“We used to make (our children) stay in their rooms and I used to be like, ‘Oh my God, Santa!’ to get them all excited about it.”

The tags on a few gifts would say they were from them, while others would say they were from Santa.

“I wanted to make Christmas special for them,” she said.

Carrillo prefers shopping for Santas after the holiday season is over when she can find them on sale.

The couple keeps an eye out for Santas at chain stores, as well as at flea markets, garage sales, antique stores and thrift stores.

“Everywhere I go, I’m looking for them,” she said. “If they’re there, I get them.”

She remembers each one in her collection and goes out of her way to avoid getting duplicates of the same Santa.

While on the search, Denise looks at their faces, especially their brown eyes and rosy red cheeks, to ensure they convey joy, happiness and the spirit of Christmas.

“And that lights you up,” Moises said.

When the Belen native’s were searching for a new home, one of Carrillo’s requirements was that she had a room big enough to display her collection and a space to store them.

The collection fits into about 18 plastic bins, which fill up an entire room.

The couple plans on expanding their collection, always keeping an eye out for unique Santas.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.