Jonathan and Jessica Stanley began their unique photo tradition in 2014, and each year they’ve created humorous "disaster" scenes that capture what Christmas chaos looks like.
"Shortly after we had our first child we set out to take a ‘normal’ Christmas card and the results were spectacularly bad," Jonathan told Fox News Digital. "Everything that could go wrong, did. Like the baby crying the whole time, wind gusts, camera misfires. If two of us looked okay, the third one blinked or sneezed or something."
He continued, "We laughed so hard at the results that we ended up just sending a series of the worst outtakes and our family loved it. So it gave us an idea – instead of trying to capture perfect family photos for our Christmas cards, we thought it was more relatable to capture what parenting really felt like."
So far, the Stanleys have eight hilarious Christmas cards that reflect their creativity and family’s growth. They began the tradition with their son Jackson, 8, and dog Nala. A few years later, their son Elijah, 6, and daughter Evelyn, 2, joined in on the fun.
The photo ops are taken at their home in North Carolina and typically show Jonathan and Jessica chasing after their children after they get into staged hijinks – some of which include a little photo editing for safe dramatic effects.
This year, the Stanleys created a balloon-filled scene inspired by the Christmas films "The Polar Express" (2004) and "The Grinch" (2018) and the 2009 children’s film "Up." Jackson, Elijah and Evelyn appear to be standing on a floating wagon while Jonathan tries to grab them and Jessica watches from the background.
Jonathan told Fox that the idea came to him after he noticed his children were watching the two Christmas films "a lot" this year, which led him to think of what it would all look like in real life.
"Basically each year I watch the kids and see what their natural interests or fascinations are, which usually leads to an idea," Jonathan said. "For example in 2019, they were obsessed with drones and always wanted me to fly them, so that triggered the 'Fly Like Santa' idea. In 2020, while stuck at home, they got really into hammers and nails, so that led to the nail gun gag."
Jonathan went on to note that the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" often serves as inspiration for their family Christmas cards, along with the Photoshop skills he’s gained as a digital marketer.
Friends and family now expect unconventional Christmas cards from the Stanleys. Around 100 get printed and distributed, according to Jonathan. They also share digital copies on popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Reddit.
"After a few years we decided to post them on the internet to share a little holiday joy with others, and the reaction has been overwhelming," Jonathan told Fox. "I think it's important to keep a healthy sense of humor – especially during a pandemic – and if the cards brighten somebody's day even for a moment then it's totally worth it. Especially fellow parents, we all feel a little overwhelmed at times, nobody has it all together."