Family takes pictures with Santa for more than four decades

Some of the Long family's photos with Santa Claus at Woodland Mall, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017

WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — They’ve taken photos with Santa at the Woodland Mall in Kentwood for 46 years, and they saved every single picture.

It’s a Christmas tradition for the Long family that started in 1972 when Becky Jo was born.

“So this is the first shot of me and Santa,” Becky Jo (Long) Volpe said as she showed 24 Hour News 8 Sunday night the photo album.”It means a lot to me because we’ve kept the tradition every year. We haven’t missed a year. And as we grow up and we are busy and we have things to do. We still make time for it.”

The pictures at first were just of Becky Jo. But then, six years later, David Jr. came along, and Katie Jo eight years after that. Eventually, their parents joined in on the photo fun.

“We kind of move the set all around every year to make sure we can all fit and everybody’s looking at us like ‘where’s their kid’? Because you know the oldest one’s 15 now,” Katie Jo Long said.

That’s because the kids in those photos are all now adults.

The chronicle of their lives during the holiday season is all kept in an organized photo album keepsake. It reminds them of the wife, mother and grandmother who was there every step of the way, who they lost in 2015.

“It would mean a lot because we are very very close family. I mean even if it’s not Christmas we’re always doing something together,” David Long Sr. said.

“We’d comtemplated stopping doing it for a minute but then we realized she would want us to keep doing it,” David Long Jr. said.

They’re continuing the legacy with a much larger picture than when they started, as the tradition originally was only family in the picture.

“I knew what the tradition was so it wasn’t a big deal and then one year Dave came, I was wandering the mall and he said ‘what are you doing? You need to be in the picture,” Dave Long Jr.’s girlfriend, Christina Johnson said.

Johnson said that meant the world to be a part of the tradition. And Becky Jo’s husband knew he it was a must to take the photos with the family as he jokingly described his first time taking part in the tradition.

“It was kind of funny, you know I’m like this is weird why are we doing this? I’m 20 something years old and I’m getting into a Santa picture,” Becky Jo’s husband, Nick Volpe said.

Now a husband, girlfriend and grandchild are all included every year. Though the family gets bigger, the tradition doesn’t change, nor do the laughs looking back at more than four decades of a life together.

“Every year looking at them and seeing how we’ve changed, the different haircuts and hairstyles. The 90s were fun,” Katie Jo Long said.