Christmas in July: A Very Brief History

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Christmas in July? Pressed to consider it, you might think that it’s a way for those folks in the Southern Hemisphere to celebrate the season as it’s most often depicted: with snow and boots and warm clothes and mugs of cocoa and cider. With fires burning and windows aglow against a dark night. After all, July is the coldest month for countries south of the equator.

Or perhaps you might think it’s a marketing ploy to get consumers to spend money during a time of the year when few holidays exist and morale is low.

Or maybe you’re a bit more insightful and realize that retailers in the late nineteenth century might have needed to advertise and sell their merchandise in advance so as to ensure delivery by the beginning of the true holiday season in December.

While all of these considerations might be true, the recognized start of “Christmas in July” as the kitschy celebration we know today was borne in 1933 at Keystone, a small camp for girls located in Brevard, North Carolina. Co-director of Keystone at the time, Miss Fannie Holt decided to spice up her campers’ lives by staging a production to entertain them. It featured carolers, a tree, fake snow and Santa himself handing out presents. As the years progressed, the camp staged ever more elaborate scenarios, with laundry bags used as stockings, elves and reindeer added to the festivities and a camp-wide gift exchange of handmade treasures. Today, the celebration continues with modern concessions for inclusivity paving the way for the addition of elements from other traditions (like Hanukkah, Halloween and Easter). And if the fake snow can’t dampen the oppressive heat of a Southern summer, then no one objects if campers take a late-night swim to cool themselves off after an evening of yuletide magic.

If you would like to celebrate Christmas in July yourself, there are several towns with festivals dedicated to the occasion; ditch your summer timeshare in Florida (via andcheck out West Jefferson, NC, Put-in-Bay, OH and North Pole, NY instead. If you’d prefer to stay home and enjoy a bit of the holiday season from the comfort of your own home, try tuning in to the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas Keepsake Week for special holiday-themed programming.

Who says you can’t celebrate Christmas all year long?!