TODAY   |  December 21, 2011

Say cheese! Family’s extreme Christmas cards

For two decades, one Minnesota family has been taking their annual Christmas cards to extremes, posing as elves, toy soldiers, gingerbread men and more. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> of course, most of us love to give and receive christmas cards , and as nbc's kevin tibble now explains, one minnesota family takes their annual tradition to the extreme.

>> reporter: perched as always this time of year by her sewing machine, sue johnson prepares the next big secret. how do you come up with the ideas each year?

>> sometimes they come to me in dreams. or my husband refers to them as nightmares.

>> reporter: as nightmares. for nearly two decades, sue's hand-made the costumes and gentleman coaled her family into posing for christmas cards that take elaborate to the extreme. there was the choir year, the elf year, the toy soldier year. friends now clamber for them. even friends of friends want to see what she has come up with. and no one knows before the white envelope drops into the mailbox.

>> you know, we complain, but the reality is, when we get together to do it, we all really have a good time doing it together as a family.

>> reporter: but wait, there's more. the christmas bulb year. the poinsettia year, the gingerbread year.

>> it kind of -- it is what it is. there's not really any getting out of it. you're in this family, you're in the christmas card .

>> our family is -- it maintainses a closeness, you know? it's a wonderful tradition. you better watch out

>> reporter: and now sue boasts of two son-in-laws, andy, who apparently can be bribed.

>> as long as i get the cookies with a hershey kiss on them and a couple of cold beers, i'll dress up however you want.

>> reporter: and newcomer mike, who soon, as you will soon find out has plans.

>> i do feel very, very special.

>> reporter: and voila, a sneak preview of this year's masterpiece. sue and rob johnson as mrs. claus and santa and all of the kids as reindeer. mike, the new bee, of course, is rudolph.

>> okay, are you ready?

>> i was never ready for this.

>> at least you didn't have to wear makeup.

>> well, this is a close second.

>> reporter: are you already thinking about next year?

>> oh, yes.

>> reporter: what are you going to be? you can whisper it.

>> no, can't tell you.

>> reporter: such a welcoming family, even allowing a complete stranger to put on the hooves. an interloper, an antler loper. where in the world is matt lauer while i'm doing this?

>> merry christmas !

>> reporter: and merry christmas to you. for "today," kevin tibbles, nbc news, eagan, minnesota.

>> kevin , just may have crossed a line when it came to reporter involvement.

>> never looked better. i tell you that. isn't that nice, though, to have a tradition like that?

>> it is. although i can empathize with the man who married into the family. you probably should warn people.

>> our twins are 2. so with 100 pictures, one good shot, we're grateful.

>> yeah, so maybe a mask