Despite allegedly being all about joy, family, and an abundance of fuzzy feelings, Christmas can be a very stressful time of year.
Between wrangling heaps of presents for everyone, making sure your house exudes just the right amount of holiday cheer, and trying not to go too far into soul-crushing debt, people are lucky not to be completely exhausted or insane by New Years.
Fortunately, in the midst of all the picture-perfect Christmas updates going around, the Stanleys of Charlotte, North Carolina are sending out photos that feature a bit more holiday realism.
Since 2014, the family has been sending Christmas Cards that highlight the true (and often very stressful) joys of Christmas spent with two young boys. They even added a baby girl to the mix this year!
“The very first time we tried to take a ‘traditional’ Christmas card photo we had hilariously bad results,” Jonathan Stanley told Bored Panda.
“We were new parents with a one-year-old and everything went wrong – baby cried the whole time, it was windy, the lighting kept changing, you name it. If two of us looked okay, the third one blinked. We laughed so hard at how bad the photos were that we decided just to send them out as is and our family loved it. From there the tradition was born – instead of trying to send perfect cards, we would send something that represented the chaos of parenting.”
“At first, I think my wife kind of rolled her eyes and said, ‘okay, we’ll try it,'” he said. “I had no idea if a staged scene would make sense or be funny, but we went for it and it just kind of worked. The kids love it, though when they see the final product I have to constantly remind them that it’s fake and to not try it in real life. I worry sometimes I am putting ideas into their heads!”
Jonathan says his goal is to make it look like it’s a perfect Christmas scenario, “as if it’s a Pottery Barn ad or something,” that has gone horribly awry.
“I also take care to make sure its a realistic as possible – most of the scene is shot practically and I try to minimize the photoshop required to yield the best results. Today most people have a strong eye for recognizing when something is fake, so the goal is to make it just real enough that they question how we pulled it off.”
“The hardest part is getting the kids to look in the right place and hold the right pose – especially when they were younger,” Jonathan added. “We use a lot of tricks like putting bells on a pole and then holding it where their eyeline needs to be, etc.
“Also, ensuring they don’t bump the tripod while we are shooting – easier said than done when you have two boys running around for an hour. We shoot each kid individually and then stitch it all together…but if the tripod gets bumped it ruins the effect and we have to start over.”
And here’s their 2020 edition!
Obviously, the Stanleys have built quite a reputation at this point.
“Our friends and family would be so disappointed if we went back to a normal card at this point. It’s also a great creative outlet and once the kids are a little older it will open up some crazy possibilities that aren’t feasible with a four-year-old and a baby.”
“I think deep down everyone hates trying to get a photograph for a Christmas card,” he admits. “It’s near impossible if you have young children – so people appreciate a card that emphasizes the challenges of parenting vs. hiding them. Plus a lot of people seem to appreciate that the cards are a fun thing we do together as a family. After all, the family that plays together stays together!