Every December, our mailbox is usually full of incoming Christmas cards from family and friends, complete with loving family portraits and sweet notes about their accomplishments throughout the year. And every year I feel this great sense of pressure to come up with some witty, custom illustrated card to mail back that says, “Check out this clever and cute cartoon I took the time to draw for you for the Holidays…our little family is so artsy.” There are only so many times one can digitally render a candy cane or a snowman before you start to feel like a burnt Christmas cookie.
I started to get the idea for a Christmas portrait after the little one was born, especially since all of the relatives kept asking for a group photo featuring the baby. Problem was we had never taken a family portrait together of any kind, since our blended family got together seven years ago. And frankly, I think the Mr. would rather run out of a room screaming than put on a pair of khaki pants and smile for a camera.
That’s just not us. And that’s okay. We are weird…I’ve accepted that and that’s who we are. We are quirky people who would rather talk about rock n’ roll than politics. We spend our Saturdays digging through thrift stores and stopping by the local hardware store to pick up goods for our next home improvement project. We make a point to eat together as a family almost every single evening, but we can argue for an hour about what character should be eaten next by a zombie on The Walking Dead. And we always try to out-do each other at Birthday time to see who can purchase the funniest card (the more awkward the better).
One such Saturday while the Mr. and I were out at one of our favorite thrifting spots, I came across a mega pick and scooped up a bundle of vintage Christmas clothing that would make Clark Griswold envious. Then I got online and ordered a few gaudy accessories such as Christmas ornament earrings, a Santa hat and a few ridiculous Holiday headbands…and voila! Our characters for our family portrait photo started to come alive! And I think for three tacky sweaters, two candy cane printed turtlenecks and matching accessories…the grand total spent was around $15 or $20. You can go on Ebay (like this one) or Etsy.com (or this one) anytime of the year and purchase a tacky Christmas sweater, but it will cost you about $50. That is just ridiculous. Here’s the insider tip: If you start looking around your local thrift stores right after Halloween they start to put out the Christmas goods around November 1st. That’s the time when you can find some real treasures for under $5.
Then we did our research for inspiration. There are some real winners on Awkward Family Photos. No shortage of crying babies, bad clothes, creepy Santas and big hair here.
Next we hired our photographer friend, Patrick Biedrycki, who specializes in environmental portraits. We did the entire photoshoot in our backyard with a 9 foot blue paper backdrop and a few lights. The hair and makeup were probably the most complicated thing about our own awkward family portrait. I apologize now for the hole we put in the ozone layer from the use of aerosol hairspray.
To say that this was one of the most fun things that we’ve ever done together as a family is a true understatement. Even the teenager got into it…I think I saw the corners of his mouth turn upwards into a smile at one point. My hope is that when the kids are grown, they can look back at this ridiculous family photo and say, “Gee, our parents were a lot of fun.” And my hope for everyone that gets this in their mailbox this December is that they laugh hard, really hard and maybe get inspired to celebrate their own family quirkiness. Merry Christmas!