‘Brings us closer’: Friends return to Vancouver Island for 12th annual Christmas photo

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The Santa photo tradition is now entering its 12th year.

Some high school friends on Vancouver Island have quite the Christmas streak going.

This holiday season marks the 12th straight year that they’ve all assembled for a picture. And while that doesn’t exactly sound like Christmas magic, the reason they do it, is.

Do you know what it’s called when a friend group makes Christmas plans and nobody bails?

“It’s a miracle!” says Island-raised man Joshua van Meurs.

Every tradition starts somewhere, and 12 years ago, three teenaged friends started their own when they got their picture taken with Santa.

“The first one was Grade 11,” says Kierden Buchanan. “There was three of us and it started as a bit of a joke.”

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Three pals, some ugly sweaters, and a mall Santa. It was a cute idea, but then, as things tend to do around Christmas, it snowballed.

First, it was more friends.

“There were six – then eight,” says Buchanan.

Then came turtlenecks and chains, cowboys and COVID-19, and eventually, Cancun, denim outfits, and even a production budget.

“We got green screen studios, and next thing you know we’re setting up our own props and videography, photography, and Santa’s coming to our studio,” says van Meurs.

When asked if the friends had to dish out some funds for their own Santa for a day.

“My grandfather happens to be a professional mall santa,” says Buchanan. “I have his card if you’d like to see it.”

So the friends even have jingles in their genes.

And if enacting a grandfather Claus wasn’t wholesome enough, last year they resurrected a classic.

“It was the Last Supper re-enacted,” says friend Causta Habedus-Sorensen.

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And just to be sure, the friends didn’t want to ruffle any robes in the name of holiday cheer.

“I went to a website called ‘ask a priest.com’ and I talked to a couple priests to make sure the theme was great,” says van Meurs.

Once the friends had the Vatican seal of approval, it was time for a photo shoot.

Decades more to come

Only a hardened humbugger would ask why the friends keep the tradition alive.

“As long as we keep getting older and we keep growing further apart, this brings us closer together,” says van Meurs.

As for this year’s picture.

“This year’s theme is going to be old folks,” says Habedus-Sorensen.

It’s all walkers and canes, fitting for friends who’ll grow older together.

But maybe this theme is worth a phone call as well.

When asked if the friends had called a seniors residence to make sure it was OK.

“No I have not. But I probably should,” joked van Meurs.

SEE ALSO: ‘Thousands of lights’: Holiday season kicks off Sunday in Oak Bay with Light Up Festival

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