Thursday, July 1, 2010

How Did Christmas in July Begin? Origins and History

Recently the community of sellers at decided to join together to hold a Christmas in July Sale. I know those participating last year had a great time, so I jumped at the chance to join in this year! The occasion also got me thinking, "How did Christmas in July begin in the first place?" So I decided to do a little research to find out.

The most commonly told story is one of some Irish vacationers that visited the Blue Mountains of Australia in July of 1980. It is winter in Australia in July, and it is said these tourists remarked to the proprietor of their hotel that the snowy weather reminded them of Christmas at home, and asked if he could prepare them some traditional Christmas food that evening. And so, Christmas in July, or Yulefest as it is also known, was born. Yulefest has become a popular event there, and is quite a tourist attraction.

But if you dig a little further you will find references to Christmas in July from much earlier. The earliest was in 1933 when Camp Keystone, a summer camp for girls in North Carolina, held a Christmas in July celebration complete with a tree, gifts, and visit from Santa Claus. The tradition continued for several years, and on the camp's website, past participants have posted some of their memories of the festivities.

The phrase may have become much more commonplace in 1940, when a comedy movie titled "Christmas in July" was released. The plot centered around an office clerk who was tricked by his coworkers into believing he had won $25,000 in a contest, and subsequently bought gifts for everyone he knew and proposed to his girlfriend.

Shortly after in 1942, the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC decided to give a sermon called "Christmas Presents in July", which was modeled after a program at his former church in Philadelphia where gifts were collected early enough to be distributed to missions worldwide. The tradition continued, and by 1946 the service was broadcast yearly on local radio.

During World War 2 the US Post Office and US Army and Navy teamed up with the greeting card industry for an Early Christmas Mailing Campaign, where citizens were encouraged to send early Christmas care packages to members of the military serving overseas. A Christmas in July luncheon to spread the word was held in New York that year, and again in 1945.

Retailers most likely began holding Christmas in July sales some time after this. One ad reading: "It's Christmas in July at Browning King" reportedly appeared in the New York Times on July 20, 1950.

The fifties also saw the creation of the World Santa Claus Congress, with hundreds of professional Santas congregating every July at Bakken, a popular amusement park north of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is still held there today, with festivities ranging from Christmas cake baking, to a Gala and Santa Parade. Their website says all participants are expected to "generally spread Christmas cheer".

And in 1979, Rudolph and Frosty surfaced for a summertime TV adventure in "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July". Apparently Frosty and his family sported magical amulets that prevented the snowmen from melting until the 4th of July.

Even though its origins may be a bit murky, Christmas in July is celebrated all over the world today- even in Antarctica at McMurdo Station. July is the middle of winter there, and the ice and winds make it unsafe for planes to land. Supplies instead have to be dropped, and it's said that years ago these "gifts" falling from the the sky reminded people of a visit from Santa. Christmas festivities have taken place there in both July and December ever since.

No matter how or when it began, Christmas in July offers the opportunity to get a head start on our holiday shopping, instead of battling crowds on Christmas Eve! I always prefer shopping from the comfort of my own home, but after finding out about some of these Christmas in July traditions, I think this year I might just crank up the air conditioning and make myself some egg nog and Christmas cookies to enjoy while I'm doing it! Close to 300 merchants on are offering deals and discounts. I'm offering 15% OFF in my own booth and the complete list of participating sellers is here:

Do you celebrate Christmas in July? I'd love to hear from you about your traditions!