Sisters Keep a Tradition with Santa

December 25, 2018
Sisters Stefanie Preville, left, and Tammy Walsh pose with their recent Christmas picture with Santa. The sisters have been taking holiday pictures for nearly 40 years. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/MINA CORPUZ Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Mina Corpuz

mcorpuz@sentinel andenterprise.com

LEOMINSTER -- Sisters Stefanie Preville and Tammy Walsh take their Christmas pictures seriously. For nearly 40 years, they haven’t missed a shot with Santa at the Whitney Mall.

“We knew we had to do it because it was our only tradition,” said Preville, who is 39.

They could have stopped when they were teenagers, but they have continued to take the pictures because it’s an opportunity for the sisters to bond and because taking them is fun.

Their parents, Paul and Jane Walsh, took Preville for Christmas photos when she was a baby in 1979. When her sister came along the next year, they started taking the pictures together.

In their first holiday picture together, toddler Preville sat on Santa’s knee and baby Walsh was cradled in his arm. Both girls were crying.

Each photo documented fashion and hairstyle changes and how the sisters grew over the years, including awkward teenage years, they said.

There were a few years old when they wore matching T-shirts, including ones that say “Santa’s favorite brunette” and “Santa’s favorite blonde.” In 1993, they both posed in leather bomber jackets.

More recently, they have dressed more formally and coordinated the color of their outfits, Preville said. They often go shopping together to find the right looks for the pictures.

“We just keep getting fancier,” said Walsh, who is 38.

This year’s picture features Preville and Walsh in navy blue dresses with silver accessories and shoes.

When the time comes for them to take pictures at the mall, Preville said they often get strange looks from families there.

Sometimes people will cut them in line because they don’t expect them to be waiting to pose with Santa, Walsh added.

For the past five years, they have taken pictures with the same Santa, who has recognized them and exclaimed “Sisters!” when it’s their turn, Walsh said.

When they pose with a new Santa, they explain that it’s something they’ve been doing for years and that they do it for their parents, Walsh said.

Members of the family don’t think it’s strange that they still take Christmas pictures with Santa, the sisters said, and their parents enjoy seeing the new picture each year.

“Our dad always acts surprised and says, ‘You did it again?’” Preville said.

Walsh tried to get her 17-year-old son, Austin, in on the tradition, but he didn’t really like taking the picture. One year a cousin joined them in a photo.

Their mother used to string their Santa photos onto a garland for the Christmas Tree. When the string got too long, they put the pictures into two albums, which are at Preville’s Leominster home.

Five years ago the sisters were the subject of Sentinel & Enterprise news article about their Santa pictures. A copy of the story, which included 35 years of their holiday photos, is framed and hangs on Preville’s wall.

Preville and Walsh plan to continue the Christmas picture tradition for as long as they can. In 2013, Preville said it’s something they will be doing into their 90s.

There will be a time when they run out of colors to coordinate for outfits, so they might have to switch to themes for the Christmas pictures, Walsh said.

“What are we going to do next?” she wondered.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz

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