Dec. 17, 2013 at 10:27 AM ET
The Gray brothers of Massachusetts have taken the traditional photo with Santa to a whole new level, posing with the big guy every year for three decades.
Mike Gray, 34, had his first picture taken with St. Nick in 1980. His younger brother Martin Gray, 30, joined the annual photo session in 1984, delighting their mom. Then they just kept going, showing up on Santa’s lap into their teen and adult years.
“It was just a tribute to our amazing mother. We didn't mind feeling a little silly because we knew how much it meant to her,” Martin Gray, who lives in Lowell, Mass., told TODAY Moms.
“Then at a certain point, you simply have to keep the streak going.”
The photos chronicle the boys’ changing faces, hair styles, fashions and body shapes, through their cute childhood days into the awkward teen years and beyond. Their mom keeps the complete collection in an album that is pulled out each December and serves as a conversation point when the family gathers for the holidays, said Gray, who recently posted the entire photo series online.
Over the years, some Santas were more comfortable with the growing brothers sitting on their laps than others, he recalled. But you can tell St. Nick really rebels in the late 1990s, when the strapping young men no longer sit on his lap but on the chair arm rests. “This was per Santa's request,” Gray quipped.
While some of those awkward teen photos may give viewers pause, the series has a happy ending: As the brothers got married, their own children have started to show up in the photos. Gray hopes the tradition that he and his brother started will keep going with their kids.
“It should be easy to continue for a while before our children turn into teenagers and are embarrassed by it. I'd like to see it continue forever,” he said, adding the photos help keep the family close.
“It just a nice excuse to get together, no matter what. No matter how busy we are, we simply have carve some time out for this tradition. I guess that is the point of traditions like these, an excuse to stay close to family and friends.”
Check out 34 years of Santa photos, below (be sure to click through to this year's photo!).