If you think your family is weird, wait till you see the Bergerons. Or at least the Christmas cards they have been creating for the past 16 years. “I can’t tell you if it was me or Laura who thought of it, or even if it evolved between the two of us joking back and forth, but somehow we came up with the idea to dress up as different characters and make their holiday cards for everyone we knew. It would be a way to show the people we loved that we were thinking about them during the holidays and also a way to make them smile amidst the chaos and stress of the season.” Mike Bergeron told Bored Panda.
2003, Forty & Fighting It
Our first Christmas greetings card! The original concept was “Plugs & Juggs,” but we had to choose this photo because of the priceless facial expressions, even though you can’t see Laura’s overly-augmented rack. Thus, we call this “Forty & Fighting It.” The photographer tried to move the light away from overhead, and I had to ask her to shine it directly down on me – she didn’t know how to tell me that it was reflecting off of my head and making me look like I was balding. Finally, I just told her that the balding look was what I was after in my family photos. She had no idea that we were dressed up in costumes!
2004, We’re Dreaming of a White Trash Xmas
When I went to the JC Penney Portrait Studio to pick-up our cards, they were very busy with the holiday rush, and the manager (who was also the cashier) was clearly stressed-out, answering phones, organizing photo sittings, delegating to her employees and systematically trying to work through the line at the cash register. After patiently waiting for about 10 minutes, it was my turn to be helped, and she immediately went into sales mode, taking control of the transaction and regurgitating her customer service talk track in a frenzy, multitasking all-the-while, mind you, and not able to give me her full attention.
Her – “Welcome to JC Penney Portrait Studio, how can I help you today, sir?”
Me – “I’m here to pick up my Christmas cards.”
Her – “Okay, what is your last name?”
Me – “It’s Bergeron, but I have my receipt right here if that helps.”
Her – “Okay, thank you. Give me just a moment while I get your order. Sir, it appears they accidentally printed an 8×10, which is usually $19.99, but we’ll let you have it for $5 since it was our mistake.”
Me – “No thanks.”
Her – “Okay…well, I see that your wife is pregnant…I hope you will be coming back to JC Penney to take your baby pictures.”
Me (smiling at the realization that she doesn’t get the joke) – “Actually, she’s not pregnant…and if she was, I wouldn’t let her drink beer or smoke cigarettes…and, as you can see, I don’t have a mullet. It’s a joke card.”
In the midst of what was utter chaos for her at that moment, she just sort of stared at me in bewilderment as the cashier next to her stopped what he was doing, leaned over to look at the card and said to me with pure and utter excitement, “Dude, that’s awesome!”
Me – “Thanks. Merry Christmas!”
As I took my cards and walked away, the manager stood there in absolute confusion, her brain frozen with the realization that her sales training had failed to prepare her for this situation.
2005, Your Aunt & Uncle Who Live in the Midwest
Being a Bergeron, I have always known that I would eventually lose my hair. We are trained from birth to accept the fact that someday our hair will fall out. At the age of 32, it was apparent to me that my days were numbered and if I wanted to make fun of being bald, then this would likely be my last chance before the joke would become a reality. So, on the afternoon of the photo shoot, I had Laura shave the hair off of the top of my head…and I’ve been bald ever since. The thing is, I had to walk around with a bald head for a couple of weeks while the holiday card was processing and shipping, but I didn’t want to give anyone any hints about what the card might be. So, when people would ask me why I suddenly shaved all of the hair off of my head, I would give them some made-up excuse like, “I joined a cult” or, “I’m a racist” or, “Chicks really seem to like that Vin Diesel guy, so I thought I’d give it a shot.” Incidentally, one of the other excuses I would give was, “I’m a competitive swimmer, and I wanted to shave some time off my laps.” A few years later, I was bartending, and my friend Kristine came in with one of her girlfriends. We chatted a bit, and I mixed them up some special shots, and then Kristine got up to go to the restroom, and her friend says to me, “So, Kristine tells me you’re a swimmer.” Now the question is: How many people are out there who still believe I joined a cult?
2006, A Very Special Xmas
A couple of years before we started this tradition, my friend, Jeremy, worked during the holidays in a photo studio. If he thought that a family portrait was particularly funny, he would print a copy for himself and put it on display in his living room. They were all awkward and wonderful in their way, but there was one photo, in particular, that was so delightfully goofy and uncomfortable that it has always stuck with me. This card is an effort to recreate the magic of that card. I’ll be the first to admit that we fall short, but I think it still manages to bring some joy to the holiday season!
2007, American Gothic Xmas
Overshadowed by controversy, some “purists” have accused us of cheating with this particular card because we Photoshopped it. For those who love it, thanks…we love you, too. For those who feel we cheated…look, we dressed-up in costumes and took a photograph for this card (we even bought a pitchfork!). However, since the original work was done with paint on canvas and did not look like a real-life photo, we felt it would be a better choice to manipulate our photo to look like the painting. Since neither Laura nor I are graphic designers, it was quite difficult and time-consuming, but we are very pleased with the way it came out. Anyone who thinks we took the easy way out on this one is simply oblivious to the effort it required. By the way, this was Laura’s departed grandmother’s favorite out of all of our cards. Oh, and for those of you who have suggested that the guy looks nothing like me, just wait until my relatives on my dad’s side view this post and they all chime in about how I look exactly like my Grandpa Bergeron. In short, suck it, haters!
2008, Merry Krishnas
We got started a little late this year, which meant that when we went to JC Penney to take our picture, there was a one hour wait. We walked through the mall and wound up eating dinner in the food court. I only wish that we had brought flowers.
2009, Los Cholos
This is my personal favorite. Some cards are obviously a joke, but when a card looks as real as this one, it is something special. Again, on this particular year, we weren’t able to take the picture until after Thanksgiving, so the JC Penney photo studio was very busy, and we had to wait for an hour to get in. Understandably so, Laura was nervous about walking around the Westminster Mall looking like we did, but I reassured her by saying, “Seriously? Look at us…nobody is going to fuck with us!” I was right…not a single person would even make eye contact with us.
2010, Olin Mills Family Portrait from 1981
May your holiday table be a smorgasbord of cheese balls, fruitcakes, and hams! In many ways, this card best represents what we were trying to achieve from the very beginning. Our concept was inspired by the inherently awkward nature of holiday family photos that has now become so popular in the age of the internet. We wanted to try to capture that awkwardness (in a next level sort of way) and give everyone we know the gift of having a funny card on their fridge that would capture the spirit of the holiday season. When they had people over to their house during the holidays, they could take pleasure in seeing their guests’ reactions upon viewing the card without realizing it was a joke. On a side note, as a bald man who has known his entire life that he would grow up to be bald, it had been a longtime aspiration of mine to sport a combover at some point because they are so fascinating in their ridiculousness! So, this particular card allowed me to not only fulfill a lifelong dream but also to capture it in all of its glory for the ages.
2011, The Unibrows
I love the idea for this picture, but personally, I think it could’ve been better executed. Don’t get me wrong, we look funny & Gigi really gives the card a whole other dynamic with her incredible cuteness, but I think this concept had the potential to be our best card ever, if we had done it right.
2012, Goth Xmas
This is your legacy, girls…embrace it!
2013, Jazz Hands
Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle :) Look at Laura…bringing it! Look at Gigi…bringing it! Look at Juju…well, protesting (at least she’s consistent). I am truly blessed.
2014, The Holidays Are Such a Drag
I doubt if anyone at the JC Penney Portrait Studio even thought twice about Laura and the girls, but it was a pretty busy year, and we were waiting for about 45 minutes for the photographer to be available. So I am certain that my presence made a lot of people uncomfortable in the studio’s waiting area. I had to hunt high and low for shoes that would fit me (thanks Lane Bryant) and, of course, I shaved my legs, so you can imagine how excited I was that we wound up choosing a shot from the waist up. And, seriously, how friggin’ cute are those boys? If we had given Gigi glasses, I think she would’ve looked an awful lot like Ralphie!
2015, Les Modèles (AKA Fashionistas, AKA Euro Trash)
His shoes – $850, her shoes – $950, spending your holiday with the Bergerons – priceless.
2016, Cussin Jerry nem
A little over a year ago, Gigi started calling me “Cousin Jerry.” It caught on with her little sister and, after a while, I started talking to them as I imagined Cousin Jerry would. Since then, he has become a regular visitor in our household, so it seemed fitting to share him with all of you this holiday season. If y’all are lucky, you may get to see “Creepy Larry” (another Gigi-inspired character) and his family in a future card…we’ll just have to see. Side note…and I feel like I say this every year, but…look at Gigi bringing it!!!
2017, Gingers in Paradise
We went in a slightly different direction this year, which required stepping out of the JCP Portrait Studio and using a photographer (big thanks to Marco Montenegro) at the local beach. This our nod to the ever-so-popular holiday card theme that says “Look at us soaking up the sun’s rays in a beautiful tropical paradise while you’re freezing your nuts off…don’t you wish you were us?”
2018 “The West Texans”
2018 “The West Texans” – We thought we would try to capitalize on the girls’ cuteness this year and leave most of the “awkwardness” to the adults (big thanks to Dione Cherie for doing the girls’ make-up.) When we went into the JC Penney Portrait Studio, Gigi was quick to let the staff know that we are famous. Laura then told Gigi that, “You’re not famous if you have to tell people that you are famous.” I can say from experience that the whole “Don’t you know who I am?” approach is pretty much useless if you’re looking for any free perks or special treatment, but it is almost certain to make you come off as a douche! Anyway, after we did our various poses and finished the photo shoot, I showed the staff our catalog of cards on my phone and, sure enough, one of them said with a smile, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen these before!” So, Gigi was right; we are famous…it’s just that nobody knows what any of us looks like, since we’re pretending to be different people in all of our cards. So, it seems that we Bergerons have our own unique brand of fame – to be seen by many, yet recognizable to no one!
Not everyone fully understood the concept at first
It took years before everyone close to the family got behind the initiative. As time went on, however, they started picking their favorites, and even sharing ideas for what they thought might make a great future card. “As our family grew, so grew the ideas about what we could do with the cards and the concept took on a whole new dimension,” Mike said. “We just kept sending them out, year after year, learning along the way that some cards were bigger hits than others, but also that each one contributed to a body of work that has become our family’s holiday tradition.”
“We have a running list of ideas for future cards, but for the past several years we have thought of the idea in September or October of that year. This year, I was driving to work, and just sort of spacing out when the idea for The West Texans just popped in my head and I found myself laughing out loud alone in my car just thinking about it.”
“My wife has always loved the tradition, though sometimes she worries that we won’t be able to keep coming up with ideas,” he added. “The girls have embraced the tradition, especially since they know that we are ‘world famous’ for the cards these days! The holidays are so much fun for a child anyway; this tradition just goes right along with the spirit of the season for them.”
Throughout the years, however, the size of the family’s actual mailing list has remained relatively the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not growing. “Every once in a while, someone who is a casual acquaintance (like a coworker or a friend of a friend) will ask if they can be on our mailing list and we are always happy to add them. Just the fact that they feel the spirit of the cards and want to share in that feeling every year is an awesome compliment to us.”