If you happened to stroll past the Lincoln Memorial last Tuesday and see a man and a woman in black tie get-up on the steps crushing White Claws, that was Sarah Keating and her boyfriend Matt Violette.
No, the duo wasn’t there just to crack open a few casual morning seltzies and ponder the syntactical brilliance of the Gettysburg Address. They were shooting their Christmas card, obviously.
The finished product features Keating, 28, who lives in West End, and Violette, 31, who lives in Kensington, facing each other with the monument’s marble facade in the background. Around them, empty seltzer cans lay scattered; in their hands are two Claws ready to be shotgunned. Script floating above reads “Wishing you a lawless holiday season,” a nod to the now-internet famous White Claw catchphrase “Ain’t no laws when you’re drinkin’ Claws,” penned by YouTuber Trevor Wallace.
Keating, who works in digital marketing, and Violette, who works for Beazer Homes, have a longstanding tradition of conceptualizing and sending out cards intended to make you do a double take.
Over the years, the couple has sent cards picturing them in a forest dressed up as Christmas trees, on a beach wearing tacky holiday sweaters, and staring intently at their phones with the message “From our screens to yours…We wish you a year of strong wi-fi connections.”
When they wore American flag shorts and ate McDonalds in front of the Capitol for their 2017 card, the photos went viral when they were picked up by Yahoo. The comments were vicious, says Keating (your author can confirm).
So, true to form, she and Violette had the quotes printed on the backs of the cards and sent out to all their friends and family. “My true friends hung it on their fridges so that the comments were out instead of the picture,” says Keating.
They typically send out 150 cards per year to family and friends, and often have to include an explainer for recipients like Keating’s grandma or other older folks who may not be familiar with the idiosyncrasies of generation White Claw. “My dad is so confused,” Keating says of this year’s foray. “He doesn’t get it.”
It probably goes without saying that the duo has a pretty good sense of humor. “If we’re going to put ourselves out here like that, you have to be able to laugh at yourself,” says Keating. “We’ve just tried to top ourselves every year.”
And they both play equal roles in brainstorming new content for the yearly shoots. “Matt’s never said no to an idea,” says Keating. “He’s always like ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ He doesn’t get embarrassed or even push back about it, which I think is one of my favorite things about him.”
She pauses. “It would be super awkward if he left me. I think maybe the year after that I would just have to do a really sad [card of] me and a bottle of wine.”
This year, they considered basing their card off the Popeye’s chicken sandwich vs. Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwich rift. That is, until Violette spotted a White Claw in the kitchen. Inspiration sprung forth like a geyser of spiked, mango-flavored seltzer.
“Matt loves White Claw,” says Keating. (“Does anyone not like White Claw?” she muses rhetorically.) Theirs is truly a predestined union: Violette’s favorite flavor is lime; Keating hates lime. “It works perfectly,” she says.
Their friend and photographer Emily White shot the photos for them, and they brought a bag full of empty Claws to sprinkle around themselves (for the shotgunning picture, they filled empty cans with old school non-alcoholic seltzer).
Surprisingly, they didn’t get any weird looks or prying questions, says Keating, even when a middle school field trip wandered by them faux-slamming drinks. “In a really, really twisted way, I was always hoping [a cop would show up],” says Keating. “Then Emily could have gotten a picture of it. It would have been the icing on the cake.”
As a digital marketer, Keating is always thinking about how to brand ideas in eye-catching and creative ways. That drive also extends to flipping the concept of the idealized seasonal greeting—a family bedecked in matching turtlenecks, a Golden Retriever drooling doofus-like on its own dog-sized turtleneck—on its head.
“I do think there’s a lot of potential to take Christmas or holiday cards to the next level,” she says. “Everyone in their family photos—you’re portraying this picture-perfect, ideal life, but at the end of the day, you can also make fun of yourself and laugh.”
Ambitions of fighting Norman Rockwell-esque norms aside, I have to ask her, one millennial to another: Do she and Violette actually take these photos so they can, you know, go viral?
I can hear her smile on the phone: “I wouldn’t mind.”