Presidents Day: One Family’s Tradition You Have to See to Believe

The Jensen family has a creative way of honoring Presidents Day.

ByVERONICA STRACQUALURSI
February 16, 2015, 2:49 PM
PHOTO: This year, the Jensen family Presidents Day card features Presidents Chester Arthur and Martin Van Buren.
This year, the Jensen family Presidents Day card features Presidents Chester Arthur and Martin Van Buren.
Courtesy of the Jensen family

— -- Friends of the Jensen family of Washington, D.C., know they shouldn't expect Christmas cards. Instead, each year Marisa Jensen, her husband, Jeff, and their daughters, Matilda, 15, and Franny, 12, take part in a much more unusual tradition: Presidents Day cards.

But these are no ordinary greetings.

Marisa and Jeff, a historic preservation specialist at the General Services Administration, dress their children as U.S. presidents in honor of the national holiday. It all started in 2007 when the family was too busy for the traditional holiday family photo.

So, instead for Presidents Day they mailed out a card with Matilda dressed as George Washington and Franny as a bearded Abraham Lincoln.

"People have really embraced it and look forward to it," Marisa Jensen said in an interview with ABC News.

This year Franny and Matilda applied their own makeup and facial hair to become America’s 21st president, Chester Arthur and eighth president, Martin Van Buren, sideburns and all.

"It gets harder to guess them," said Marisa Jensen, who acknowledged that friends and family had difficulty identifying President Arthur.

One of Jensen’s favorite years was when they recreated the famous 1960 televised presidential debate, dressing their daughters as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

PHOTO: Matilda and Franny Jensen recreate the first televised president debate of 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon for the family's 2011 President's Day card.
Matilda and Franny Jensen recreate the first televised president debate of 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon for the family's 2011 President's Day card.
Courtesy of the Jensen family

Sometimes, the family even shoots at historic sites. Here they are in Monticello, Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

PHOTO: The Jensen family traveled to Thomas Jefferson's famous home Monticello to photograph their 2012 President's Day card. Matilda and Franny dressed as presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
The Jensen family traveled to Thomas Jefferson's famous home Monticello to photograph their 2012 President's Day card. Matilda and Franny dressed as presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Courtesy of the Jensen family

In 2010, breaking from tradition, the Jensen family sent out their card around Halloween, with a re-enactment of President James Garfield’s 1881 assassination by Charles Guiteau.

PHOTO: For the 2010 President's Day card, Matilda and Franny Jensen reenact the assassination of President James Garfield.
For the 2010 President's Day card, Matilda and Franny Jensen reenact the assassination of President James Garfield.
Courtesy of the Jensen family

Although each photo shoot may only take a day, preparations are much more time-consuming. In a collaborative effort, the family decides together which presidents the girls will impersonate. They keep an eye open for supplies, shopping at thrift stores for some of the costumes and props.

Other years the girls have transformed themselves into Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Teddy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft and Grover Cleveland.

So does all this presidential posing mean the girls are developing White House ambitions of their own?

"Neither of them are particularly politically bent or driven, they appreciate the general tone of D.C.," Marisa Jensen said.

Jensen wouldn't offer any hints about whom the girls plan on dressing up as next year, but Jensen does have an idea for a future card.

"It would really – fingers crossed – be great if Hillary won, even if that's our last card, that we go out that way," she said.

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