This family goes all out for their annual holiday cards

A Florida mom started the sweet family tradition after surviving breast cancer.

ByCatherine Thorbecke and Elissa Nunez via via logo
December 19, 2019, 4:09 AM

2020 might be just around the corner, but one Florida family is throwing it back to 1980 for the newest card in their epic annual Christmas card tradition.

This year, Cindy Simmons of Orlando, Florida, along with her husband, mother, and two daughters, is reliving her childhood with denim vests and sky-high hair.

"With 'Stranger Things' being such a big part of pop culture and VSCO girls being such a middle school phenom, we thought a cheesy nod to the '80s would be a perfect way to go for this year's family Christmas card,” Simmons said.

PHOTO: The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., debuts their 2019 Christmas card.
The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., debuts their 2019 Christmas card.
Frankie Whitlach/321 Action Films
PHOTO: Cindy Simmons and her mother, Momma Jane, were photographed for their family’s Christmas photo.
Cindy Simmons and her mother, Momma Jane, were photographed for their family’s Christmas photo.
Frankie Whitlach/321 Action Films

The tradition of over-the-top family Christmas cards began after Simmons survived breast cancer, she said. Simmons and her mother, who goes by "Momma Jane," are both cancer survivors.

"Doing this Christmas card every year with my favorite people makes us so happy and brings us huge amounts of joy," Simmons said.

PHOTO: Simmons’ mother, Momma Jane, and daughters Lily and Luna dressed up for their family’s Christmas photo.
Simmons’ mother, Momma Jane, and daughters Lily and Luna dressed up for their family’s Christmas photo.
Frankie Whitlach/321 Action Films
PHOTO: Cindy Simmons and husband, Eric, pose for their family’s 80s-themed Christmas card.
Cindy Simmons and husband, Eric, pose for their family’s 80s-themed Christmas card.
Frankie Whitlach/321 Action Films

"Once you go through something like that it just makes you go, 'Let's live life big,'" she said. "Once that happened, I think our family perspective just changed, we wanted to create experiences for our family instead of worrying about just things."

Simmons said she starts planning for the Christmas photo shoot about a year in advance and the theme is always a tightly-held secret.

"No one knows except our photographer," and her friend Christine Eberle, who does the cards each year as part of her Eberle Invitations company.

"I think about them a year in advance," she added of the Christmas cards. "My husband and I always joke that we always have to file an extension on our taxes, but we always know what our yearly Christmas card is going to be."

In 2018, the family went for a "Mary Poppins" theme, tied to the release of the film "Mary Poppins Returns," and immediately started scouting locations in their community "that looks like 17 Cherry Tree Lane."

PHOTO: The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., go all-out every for their annual family Christmas cards.
The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., go all-out every for their annual family Christmas cards.
Franklin Whitlatch/321 Action Films

In the photo, Simmons dressed up as Mary Poppins herself, her mother dressed up as Mrs. Banks, her husband, Eric, dressed as Bert, and her two children -- Lily, 13, and Luna, 6, -- dressed as Jane and Michael.

PHOTO: Cindy Simmons and her mother are photographed here dressed up for their family Christmas photo.
Cindy Simmons and her mother are photographed here dressed up for their family Christmas photo.
Franklin Whitlatch/321 Action Films
PHOTO: Lily Simmons, 13, and Luna Simmons, 6, pose for their family's Mary Poppins-themed Christmas card.
Lily Simmons, 13, and Luna Simmons, 6, pose for their family's Mary Poppins-themed Christmas card.
Franklin Whitlatch/321 Action Films
PHOTO: The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., go all-out every for their annual family Christmas cards.
The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., go all-out every for their annual family Christmas cards.
Franklin Whitlatch/321 Action Films

Simmons said she tries to find elements for the costumes on the cheap or even make them herself when she can, noting, "This is supposed to be about an experience, not spending."

"I get on eBay, I use Amazon points, I try to DIY," she said. "I’m not crafty but ... you can really do anything by watching a YouTube video."

In 2015, Simmons and her Disney-obsessed family recreated beloved "Star Wars" characters.

PHOTO: The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., went all out for their Star Wars-themed Christmas card in 2015.
The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., went all out for their Star Wars-themed Christmas card in 2015.
Andy Brophy/OneNine Images

"We’re huge Disney fans, we’re huge 'Star Wars' fans," she explained.

PHOTO: The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., went all out for their Star Wars-themed Christmas card in 2015.
The Simmons family of Orlando, Fla., went all out for their Star Wars-themed Christmas card in 2015.
Andy Brophy/OneNine Images

In other years, the family has done Vintage Florida, Emergency Room and Farm Life-themed cards.

Her young daughters "love it," Simmons said of the family tradition.

"They're going to get to an age where they might be like, 'Ugh,'" she added. "But we know that when they have grandchildren this might be a good tradition they can carry on."

The response from friends and family to their over-the-top cards each year makes it worth it, said Simmons.

"We just want to spread joy, that’s it," she said. "That's our sole goal in our family."

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Dec. 12, 2018.

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