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Every Christmas, Chris Willis Hides an Army of Glowing Santa Claus Figurines Somewhere in Town. This Year Is No Different…Well, Except for One Thing.

Like everything else, Willis has had to adjust to fit the reality of COVID-19—namely, by manufacturing 400 tiny cloth masks.

WW presents “Distant Voices,” a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they’re doing during quarantine.

What's more unsettling than a metaphysical being who knows when you've been naughty or nice? How about an entire army of them?

A decade ago, Chris Willis started one of Portland's under-the-radar holiday traditions. Every Christmas, the local artist arranges 400 vintage, plastic, light-up Santa Claus figurines at an undisclosed location somewhere in town for the public to either search out or stumble upon.

He calls them the Santa Clones. What began as a charming bit of pre-Instagram whimsy has evolved into a yearly scavenger hunt, with Willis dropping hints on where to find the Clauses (Clausi?) on social media.

Like everything else, though, Willis has had to adjust to fit the reality of COVID-19—namely, by manufacturing 400 tiny cloth masks.

In an interview with WW, Willis describes what other steps he took to pandemic-proof the tradition, the origins of the Santa Clones, and how they're related to the terra cotta soldiers of ancient China.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.