Cullman’s ‘Mrs. Claus’ tells all

Tonja Grace, aka Mrs. Claus, has been spreading joy around the Cullman area for many years. (Contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Did you know the Cullman area has its very own Mrs. Claus? Tonja Grace has been bringing good cheer for half a decade. 

“I got started doing this about five years ago,” Grace said. “My boys are grown, and Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I wanted a way I could give back to the community. I initially started visiting homebound patients and hospice patients. It eventually went to riding in parades, and simply walking the streets giving out candy canes and toys to the smaller children.”  

Grace said one of her favorite things to do is buying toys and giving them to children.  

“I would do meet and greets out in public and attend many local events and just dress up to try and spread the Christmas cheer,” Grace said. “My grandfather always loved Christmas, and my mom taught us to love it just as much. We baked cookies with foster children and it just brought joy to my heart to be able to give back.”  

She said she recently attended an event at Snead’s Farmhouse in Vinemont, where she had pictures taken with many farm animals and children.  

“It was so much fun. I also attended the Christmas (events at the) Marktplatz in Cullman, and being able to see the joy on the faces of the young and old made it all worthwhile. I have also, with the help of friends, delivered Christmas toys to children via a fire truck.” 

Grace shared some of her favorite memories so far.  

“One of my favorite memories of doing this is giving a hospice patient a baby doll and clothes,” Grace said. “She loved it as if it were her own and cried because she was so happy. So many little things we take for granted are so very important to many others.” 

She said some people think she is silly for doing this – since most of what she does is volunteer work.   

“I visit nursing homes and homes for the developmentally challenged,” Grace said. “Anywhere I can make someone smile, I have done my job. I enjoy each and every photo op, the smiles on the faces of the young and old. It truly is a blessing to me. When I put on the Mrs. Claus wardrobe I tend to forget all my worries and transform into something that feels so magical. I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and don’t forget the real reason for the season!” 

Grace said for the remainder of the year she will be popping up all over town in random places to spread Christmas cheer.  

“Some nights, I just go to Depot Park and walk around and enjoy the blessings God has given me,” Grace said. “If anyone needs me to make an appearance, all they have to do is ask!”