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Marie Cox

Santa central: Marie Cox has crush on Kris Kringle

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Worthington,Minnesota 56187 http://www.dglobe.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/4/0711/12mrschristmasmarie1.jpg?itok=LBkIT9v3
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Santa central: Marie Cox has crush on Kris Kringle
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Everyone knows that Santa Claus' address is at the North Pole.

But his spirit, in the form of hundreds of facsimiles of the Jolly Ol' Elf, inhabits a residence at Sunshine Apartments in Worthington. Marie Cox has collected Santas for many decades, amassing an assortment that overflows her small apartment during the holiday season.

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"I have a son, who every time he comes to visit brings a Santa," Marie said. "I told him this year if he brought any he'd have to take them back home. ... I don't have room for any more."

Eleven years ago, Marie moved from a big house in Adrian to the senior apartment facility in Worthington. At the time, she trimmed some of the larger Santas from her collection, but brought the bulk with her, and many more have been added since. Santa images now perch, hang, recline and repose on every possible surface in the small apartment.

The origins of Marie's St. Nick fixation date back to 1955. She and late husband Bill were married that year on the day after Christmas -- the wedding colors were appropriately red and white. The family's Christmas connection became even stronger when the youngest of their seven kids was born on Christmas Day -- a daughter, Kristi Mary.

Throughout the years, her large family -- 17 grandchildren and now seven great-grands -- has largely been responsible for contributions to the collection, with friends throwing in a few along the way.

The younger family members especially like to visit during the holiday season, delighting in the sights -- and sounds -- of so many Santas. Many of the Santas are animated, playing music or emitting some other form of noise, creating a nerve-jarring symphony when they're all turned on at once.

"When the great-grandchildren come over, they all want their pictures taken with them," Marie said, singling out several of the more comical Santas that catch the children's attention.

An old-fashioned outhouse has Santa's hat hanging on the door, and his voice can be heard from within, "Can you help a jolly old elf out? I'm fresh out of TP."

Another Santa pulls down his pants, revealing a pair of boxer shorts to which a note is pinned, "Merry Christmas, Grandma."

In Marie's apartment, Santa comes in all sizes -- ranging from a fluffy four-foot-high version that occupies an armchair to one less than a couple of centimeters high, contained in a holiday tableau inside a plastic matchbox.

"A friend made this one out of pinecones," Marie said, holding a rustic version. "She put Santa's head on a spoon, too."

A Santa sporting Bing Crosby's face is flanked by an enormous pile of stuffed Santas, and a couple dozen St. Nicks are sprinkled at his feet. Across the room are three incarnations of Homer Simpson as Kris Kringle. Wooden nesting Santas are lined up on top of a cabinet. Near the door are the motion-activated versions, including a moose's head topped by a red cap and a singing holiday fish.

In the small space, they all compete for a visitor's attention.

"I've got a German Santa holding a pickle," Marie said, pointing to a shelf. "I've got one from Mexico, one from Canada, from all over the place. I even have a Twins and a Vikings one."

Marie has never taken the time to count her Santas -- she just knows the number would be overwhelming.

"Everybody asks that," she said with a laugh, "but I don't care. Some fell behind the chair, and I just left them there."

The Christmas collection usually comes out of storage a few days before Thanksgiving.

"I bring them all out and put them in the center of the room first," Marie explained about her process. "Everybody always says they're going to help, but then they don't come around. I take them down the day after Christmas, but my daughter is coming on New Year's this year and wants them up."

Santa, in his myriad forms, will then go back into hibernation, carefully tucked into large plastic bins and hidden away in the apartment's limited storage spaces until it's time for next year's appearance.

"I always say every year that it's the last, but then I get them out again," Marie said.

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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