By Mary Clarkin

The Hutchinson News

Santa Claus is welcome year-round at the ranch house on North Halstead Street.

"Thank God it's Christmas," declares the wooden sign planted in front of the home of Larry and Margaret "Maggie" Mullins.

The red front door provides another hint of what's inside. Christmas dcor brightens the entrance, kitchen, living room and family room. Santa Claus is at home everywhere.

"I do like Santas," said Maggie Mullins.

In the kitchen is a tea pot bearing Santa's likeness. But it's a papier-mache creation, not pottery.

"I guess what I like is usually different things," she said.

Mullins took lessons from the late Pat Potucek, a local artist. Some works in the Mullins home were made by Potucek, some by Mullins in a Potucek-taught class.

A Santa wearing white boots was a gift from Mullins' friend since childhood, Earlene Polk.

"I know it's over 100 years old," said 88-year-old Polk.

Mullins said she has no idea how many Santas she has, but she doesn't have duplicates.

Not all Santas are portly figures in red. A tall old Santa dressed in white was a purchase from a garage sale. "I think I paid $2 for it. I think he's very pretty," Mullins said.

For those Santas that were gifts, she remembers the giver. For those Santas she purchased in Hutchinson, she remembers the stores.

"I guess maybe I'm a kid at heart," Mullins said, but most of it "is pretty special to me."

"I like snowmen and I have some cute ones," she said, but "Santas have just always attracted me. Santas are cheerful. They're givers."

When she was growing up, Christmas was about the family getting together. Presents were few and practical -- such as underwear.

"Not a rich family, except in love," Mullins said.

Christmas decorations at the Mullins home will remain up until a week or two into January. Some items -- but not all -- will go back into storage. Evidence of this season will be on display in the house when flowers blossom in spring, when temperatures rise in the summer and when leaves turn in the fall.

"It's pretty and it's festive. It lifts your spirits," Mullins said.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News