Here’s Henry: What is Christmas in July?

(Credit: AnnaliseArt / Pixabay)

You’ve probably heard of Christmas in July. It’s some weird phenomenon that’s been going on since the 1940s. I vividly remember seeing cartoon Christmas specials replayed in July and young me was quite perplexed.

Why do some places celebrate Christmas in the middle of the hot summer months? Is there a purpose to the rekindling of the holly jolly season?

Essentially, countries in the southern hemisphere celebrate the yuletide holiday in July, since the seasons are reversed down there. Most northern hemisphere areas use it as a marketing ploy.

In places such as Australia, Comoros, Madagascar, Bolivia, Angola, Paraguay, Samoa, South Africa and New Zealand, winter rolls around in June, July and August.

These areas still celebrate Christmas on December 25, but their true celebration happens during their winter months and the holiday is typically celebrated on July 25, the middle of the season.

(Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Flickr)

Conversely, the holiday gained prominence in the northern hemisphere during the 1940s and slowly turned into an ironic celebration during the blisteringly hot summer months.

In 1940 “Christmas in July,” a film where a man is tricked into thinking he has won a sum of money and gets his friends and family extravagant gifts, was released and made the U.S. aware of the phenomenon.

In 1942, the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. celebrated Christmas in July with carols and the sermon “Christmas Presents in July.” They upped the ante the following year, decorating a Christmas tree and adorning it with donated gifts. The congregation would distribute the gifts to mission groups worldwide to those in need.

The U.S. Post Office and U.S. Army and Navy officials, in conjunction with the American advertising and greeting card industries, threw a Christmas in July luncheon in New York in 1944 to promote an early Christmas mailing campaign for servicemen overseas during World War II.

The holiday was even made the subject of a Rankin/Bass stop-motion film, “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July,” which premiered in 1979.

Nowadays the holiday is seen as a blatant attempt by retailers to sell their Christmas backstock or get an early start on the holiday deals. This is why you see Christmas items go on sale so early in the year. 

(Tim Parkinson / Flickr)

Department stores like Wal-Mart do this, and a more recent example is Amazon Prime Day, which takes place right in the middle of the month.

Hallmark’s TV channels play their slate of holiday films during the month to coincide with the release of their special Keepsake Ornaments in stores. Due to this, many claim Christmas in July is nothing more than a Hallmark holiday (a holiday that exists solely for commercial reasons) in the northern hemisphere.

The QVC (A home-shopping channel offering household goods and jewelry to viewers) dedicates the whole month of July with featured deals scattered throughout the day. It’s upped significantly during the last week of the month, with holiday sales taking over the programming completely.

Many people and businesses throw parties to recognize the holiday, often including cold treats like ice cream, as well as participating in gift-giving. 

The holiday also helps out theme parks dedicated to the yuletide season (they do exist) year-round, such as Santa’s Workshop in New York, and Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, just to name a couple. 

(Martin Lewison / Flickr)

It’s a strange thing to celebrate, and as a 23-year-old, I don’t see where the novelty of it comes from. It seems like either a thinly veiled marketing strategy for companies to appeal to people’s nostalgia for Christmas or just an excuse for people to throw parties and watch their favorite holidays of yore.

But if you like dressing up as Santa Claus in 90-degree weather, more power to you, and a Merry Christmas to all that celebrate it in July.

Henry Wolski
Executive Editor

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