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Nov 29, 2023

Here Comes Santa Claus: Santa Finds a Home in Hilton Head

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

Now you know, if Santa is delayed in his arrival at your house this year, he’s likely not stuck in anyone’s chimney or at anyone’s table eating extra cookies. He’s probably at the Hodnett’s...

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Aside from Scrooge (who finally came around), who doesn’t love Christmas? The real question might be, who loves Christmas most?

Well, if Santa himself were judging, no doubt Hilton Head Island residents Linda and Casey Hodnett would win, hands down. For 30 years they’ve been collecting Santa Claus décor. With more than 800 Santas in their Christmas display, which takes more than two weeks to hone to perfection, this couple’s affection for the jolly one rivals that of Mrs. Claus, the elves, and the reindeer—even Rudolf.

Linda began collecting Santas primarily because Christmas is her favorite holiday. “I always host Thanksgiving,” she said, “and because my grandmother passed away around Christmastime, I always wanted to make sure my mom was in the holiday spirit. So, I started decorating for Christmas at Thanksgiving with the most happy, jolly Santas I could find.”

Linda and Casey Hodnett at home in Leamington.

While the Hodnetts have bought many Santas for themselves, their friends and family take advantage of any and every occasion to add to the couple’s collection. Linda’s first Santa Claus was a gift from a family friend, which now proudly views the holiday festivities from a high perch that overlooks the kitchen, dining room, and den.

Within that space lives the majority of the couple’s assortment, with a few notable collections. The 10-foot Christmas tree is adorned with almost 300 Santa ornaments on a tree whose base slowly spins to ensure that every ornament receives its due adoration. Some of these feature Santa singing, Santa mechanically descending the chimney, Santa with his sleigh and reindeer lighting up the sky, and more. A guest could study the tree for an hour and possibly miss something; it’s that ornate. Also notable is that Linda individually unwraps and then rewraps each ornament on the tree, a task that requires about two days, factoring in the hanging and taking down of each ornament and light.

The rest of the home’s common area is decorated to perfection with similar figurines grouped together. For example, there is a group of first responder Santas, Santas with children, Santas on motorcycles, Santas with Mrs. Claus, Texan Santas (the couple lived in Houston for a time), and more. In the kitchen, there are cooking Santas; at the bar, there are drinking Santas; there are Santas hanging from the chandelier and relaxing on the screened porch. In the bedroom, there are sleeping Santas and Santas in pajamas, and in the master bath, you’ll find Santa taking a bubble bath. Up the stairs, a collection of Santas lines the banister, and in the man cave, Santa is doing all the manly things. The doorknobs are hung with portraits of Santa Claus, and Linda even removes some of the art from the wall and replaces it with fun and fabulous art featuring Jolly St. Nick.

Each of these groups is punctuated by two distinct recognizable collections. The largest is from Possible Dreams. Since 1985, Possible Dreams has presented new Santa designs annually, made from stiffened Clothtique fabric and featuring fine detailing. The Hodnetts also have a stunning collection of Jim Shore Santas, a brand known for capturing the essence of traditional themes and patterns of American and European folk art with everyday and seasonal figurines and other household items.

Linda’s parents, though, gave the couple their favorite Santa of all—a life-size Coca Cola Santa, more than 60 years old, that now greets friends from their front window. That Santa is especially sentimental. He formerly greeted patrons at the Kroger, where Linda’s dad worked for many years. Both Linda and Casey had careers in the grocery industry before retiring, many of those with Kroger. Good friends introduced them to Hilton Head Island, and after visiting the island several times, they decided it would be a great place to live. They bought their lot in Leamington in 2017, built their house in 2021, and are now full-time residents.

The couple doesn’t keep all of this to themselves. They love to entertain, and they host several holiday parties—the biggest one worthy of all their effort and sure to fill their stockings with the finest of Christmas cheer. For this annual festivity, Casey photoshops his and Linda’s faces into a holiday movie marquee. Over the years, they’ve “starred” in everything from their first, White Christmas, where Casey was superimposed as Bing Crosby and Linda was Rosemary Clooney, to this year’s Holiday Inn, where Casey is Fred Astaire and Linda is Marjorie Reynolds.

Now you know, if Santa is delayed in his arrival at your house this year, he’s likely not stuck in anyone’s chimney or at anyone’s table eating extra cookies. He’s probably at the Hodnett’s in Leamington admiring all the renditions of himself. And he may just be there a while!  


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