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Minnesota Mom Masters The Christmas Card

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One Eagan family has a Christmas card tradition like no other – and it even got them on AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com.

Twenty-four years ago, however, the first Johnson family Christmas cards were fairly innocent. The girls were dressed alike in clothes made by their mother, Sue Johnson. But that was hardly enough to impress a mailing list.

“They might’ve noticed that we had matching outfits but, nobody really said anything,” Sue said.

So Sue cranked up the Christmas spirit. Every holiday she designed elaborate themes like gingerbread men, toy soldiers and Christmas trees. Sue continued to make each costume by hand, and often included pieces to fit around her family member’s heads.

“My kids hate the head things,” she said.

This year, a new family member was introduced to the tradition. Daughter Valerie’s husband, Mike, was Rudolph, complete with a red glitter nose, in a series of family reindeer.

“I knew exactly what I was getting into, unfortunately,” Mike said.

“That’s why it took nine years to get married,” his wife added.

Sue’s family isn’t quite sure how she decides what the family will be on any given year.

“I don’t know where she comes up with this stuff,” said Sue’s daughter Erica. “Every year it goes a little further.”

The kids haven’t always taken to the themes so easily. For example, the year they dressed as toy soldiers was particularly difficult.

“I felt really bad for [my brother] one year,” Erica said. “At the place we got the picture taken because there were kids from his school who worked there.”

But the risk of her son’s embarrassment didn’t deter Sue’s family focus.

“I told them if you want to be in this family, you have to be in the Christmas card and do what I say,” Sue said.

Besides, if you took away the outfits and the cards, a Johnson family Christmas wouldn’t be the same. Although the kids may joke around, they know exactly how special the moments are.

“She’s given us a lot,” Erica said. “So this is the one thing she says she asks for. So we give it to her.”

It’s the best gift Sue could get from her kids.

This was the first year the Johnson’s went on location for their Christmas card picture. The family rented a sleigh in Hugo, where Sue and her husband dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus and their children were Santa’s reindeer.

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