Hundreds of vintage Christmas tree ornaments, mid-century Santa figurines, and old-timey plastic lawn ornaments known as blow molds.
Her favorite piece
A plaster Santa figurine her grandparents procured at a carnival in the forties or fifties.
Years in the making
How early is too early to begin decking the halls? The day after Thanksgiving? The first day of December? Lecia Hawkins, director of creative operations at James Avery Jewelry and a prolific Christmas decor collector, begins unloading her specially designed walk-in Christmas closet the day after Halloween and not a day sooner, in accordance with a truce she’s made with her husband.
The early date isn’t just due to anticipatory passion: it takes Hawkins three to four weekends to hang, pin, and place the hundreds of merry items around her home in Kerrville, an hour northwest of San Antonio. Among the holiday cheer, she estimates she has some one hundred Santas, ranging from a life-size model to a three-foot-tall grinning face, which looms from the top of a shelf in the living room; hundreds of vintage blow molds; and hundreds more vintage Christmas ornaments that she hangs from a mid-century aluminum tree.
That six-foot-tall tree was the catalyst for a jolly lifelong hobby. Hawkins’s grandmother gifted her the silver tree, along with a starter set of vintage ornaments, sometime around 2010. The aluminum model, first sold in 1959 and popular throughout the sixties, sparked an enthrallment with not just Christmas decorations but vintage, mid-century Christmas decor. First Hawkins purchased additional ornaments to hang on the tree; then came the deluge of Santas and, finally, the lawn figurines.
After her grandmother’s initial investment in the cause, Hawkins found the rest of her stockpile by antiquing, visiting Canton’s First Monday Trade Days, and attending auctions and estate sales, her “very favorite thing to do in the whole wide world.” Though Christmas collecting is her preferred hobby, these shopping trips spurred a second habit: Hawkins, with her background in marketing, hunts for vintage advertisements and signs, which hang in her halls during all other seasons. The two passions aren’t mutually exclusive. One of her favorite Christmas items is a vintage Camel ad featuring a smoking Santa.
The majority of the pieces in her arsenal are depictions of Santa Claus—Santa in a chair, Santa riding a tricycle, Santa in a sled, Santa playing a banjo. That theme extends to her latest fascination with blow molds—of which only four are non-Santas (snowmen)—which fill her home and porch during Christmastime. “I have probably close to fifty of those now because you can’t have just one,” says Hawkins. “It only looks cool when you have like fifty.”
When all of the blow molds, Santas, and other decor items are out, sometime in November, they take over the Hawkinses’ home. Santa figurines fill the living room’s built-in bookshelves and hang from the walls. A reindeer flies over the kitchen island, hanging by a near-invisible fishing line.
The other ten months of the year, the decorations live in a walk-in closet with nooks sized to fit the pieces. Hawkins says when she and her husband saw design plans for a safe room in their new home, she thought, “Oh, that can be my Christmas closet.” The family forewent a space meant for emergencies and natural disasters in favor of a place to store Hawkins’s holiday “treasures.” Hawkins also had shelves custom built within the closet to house her lawn ornaments, which average around five feet when upright.
The annual emptying of the closet coincides with other Christmas traditions. Hawkins and her children, surrounded by copious Santas, bake and decorate cookies and count down the days on an Advent calendar.
Overall, though, for Hawkins, the holiday is “about other people,” she says. “Most of my collection came from other people. There’s a feeling that someone else enjoyed it and that it was happy memories for someone else too. And that kind of makes it extra special.”