Huntington couple doesn’t wait for Santa Claus to come to them

Jim and Rita Dinius, of Huntington, stand in front of their Christmas tree, which showcases 200 Santa Claus ornaments. The Diniuses have a collection of approximately 400 pieces of Santa Claus memorabilia, which they’ve been collecting since the 1990s. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Dec. 6, 2012.

Jim and Rita Dinius don't wait for Santa Claus to come to them.

They go to him.

The Huntington couple has been collecting Santa Claus memorabilia since the 1990s. Since then, they say, they've accumulated some 400 different pieces.

"Rita started collecting Precious Moments dolls, so I had to collect something," says Jim Dinius. "So, we started collecting Santa Clauses, wherever we went."
The places where the couple has found Santa Clauses are as varied as the types of Santa Clauses in its collection.

"When we go to Hawaii we usually pick up one or two," says Jim. "We've got several from China; we've got some from Taiwan. We got some from Switzerland last year."

The Diniuses own everything from simple versions of Santa Claus, in the form of Christmas tree ornaments, to intricate versions in the form of dolls with lifelike faces and clothing.

While some parts of the couple's collection are kept in storage until Christmastime, other items are on display year-around, stationed in two large display cases in the living room.

Within those display cases are some of the Diniuses' favorite Santa Clauses, made by Shipshewana artisan Mary Masters.

"She hand-makes Santas," says Jim. "Every year she has a Santa for a different country."

A humorous story accompanies Masters' Irish Santa Claus, which is one of many that the Diniuses own.

"There was a man who came into (Masters') office," says Jim. "What she does is take a picture of a person and she makes the face match the person.

"This fellow was in there looking around and he says, ‘You've got an English Santa Claus; why don't you have an Irish Santa Claus?' She says, ‘Well, would you want to pose for it?' And he said, ‘Yeah, I would.'
"So, she took a picture of him and it was Lou Holtz. That's when he was still up at Notre Dame."

Jim counts Masters' Chinese Santa Claus to be among his favorites of the entire collection. Rita's favorite, a Santa Claus handed down to her by her mother, is a sentimental pick.

"It must be about 100 years old," she says.

Other Santa Clauses that hold special meaning to the Diniuses are their Indiana and Purdue university Santas, which represent where their children went to school, and a Santa that reminds them of their son.

"Our son's a pilot for Continental," says Jim, "and we have a Santa up there that looks like a pilot."

The Diniuses say their Santa collecting days may be over - simply because they're running out of places to put them.

But they enjoy the ones they have and the memories of their trips around the world that they associate with them.

"They bring back memories of where you've been, of what you've seen," says Rita.