Mister Christmas: 'My whole world revolves around it'

Mister Christmas: 'My whole world revolves around it' »Play Video

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- On a quiet street where winter has found sanctuary, you'll see Christmas in all its twinkling, animated glory. It's a miracle of lights and tinsel, and also--day and night--a testament to one man's precise planning.

 
"The day after Thanksgiving," says Dan Christensen, wearing a Santa hat that matches the ruddy glow in his cheeks, "my wife and I put in about 180 hours."
 
And a lot of that time is devoted to unpacking dozens of bins and boxes, 25 for the Santa figurines alone.
 
As you survey the front lawn, with its many inflatable Santa's and snowmen, you can appreciate that Christensen is a man who keeps Christmas in his heart long after the rest of us have moved on to Easter and the Fourth of July. In fact, he freely admits he watches Christmas movies all year long. "The Polar Express" is his favorite.
 
For Dan, the devotion to the holiday is an obsession.
 
"I do it 365 days a year."
 
To stand in his living room is like being at the North Pole, just off the toy production room. There's too much to take in all at once, but the message is clear: "Santa Lives Here."
 
So what does he himself see when he looks around?
 
"Beauty and joy, cheerfulness and happiness," he says. "A lot of love because a lot of these Santa's over the years--people found out I collect Santa's. They just donate Santa's for me, so I've got Santa's from all over the world."
 
There are more than 800. And to think it all began with just one.
 
"After losing my wife and kids, a girl in Las Cruces, New Mexico, gave me a Santa figure--she saw I was depressed."
 
To hear him tell the story conjures images of Jimmy Stewart standing on a bridge in "It's a Wonderful Life," brooding about what he thinks is a wasted life and contemplating an end-it-all jump into an icy river.
 
Dan stares off into the distance as he revisits his own past miseries.
 
"I was at the point Jimmy Stewart was."
 
It's no exaggeration to say he found salvation in that one Santa, although he's hard-pressed to locate it among his many red-suited treasures. And now he's eager to spread the message to the neighborhood, if not the world.
 
Every night for nearly a month, he gives rides on a vintage fire truck or a motorized sleigh, and then tours of his home.
 
"Last year on Christmas Eve," he says with a big smile, "we handed out over 800 candy canes and 400 cups of hot cocoa in three hours."
 
And it's not just the Santa's everyone comes to see. Dan and his wife proudly display twenty Nativity scenes. Most are on high shelves.
 
"There's a reason for them to be up above because that's what Christmas is about," he says.
 
While not all his neighbors share Dan's love for Christmas, the few who disdain his passion are in the minority. One in particular showed her approval with the best gift of all: a hand-painted wooden Nativity scene that now has a prominent place on the front lawn.
 
He supplied the wood and she the inspired designs.
 
"When I looked at what she did, it was really special. Somebody had put that much time and effort and love, so I could display it."
 
He starts to tear up.
 
"Sorry."
 
But no apologies are necessary. 
 
Dan Christensen has turned a passion into a hobby. And we're the richer for it.
 
Every day he has a seat on the Polar Express and wants us all along for the ride. Only a Grinch could refuse him.