It is summertime at Recollections, however, half of the world is experiencing winter even as we bask in the summer sun. But, it doesn’t matter whether you live north of the Equator or south of it, it is Christmas in July!
History of Christmas in July
During the first quarter of the 20th century, before the demise of vaudeville, summer was the off season for the performers. Theaters were not air conditioned, so the show did not go on. Performers would gather in summer colonies. Freeport, Long Island, was a popular location. The group that stayed out there formed the Long Island Good Hearted Thespians Society (LIGHTS). The main function of the group was to celebrate Christmas on July 4th. Their reasoning was there was no time to celebrate in December as most performers were on the road during that time of year. This meant they were away from their family and friends, often spending the day on a train, in a theater, or in a hotel. Waiting until summer when everyone could be together made a lot of sense! (Senelick)
The first time ‘Chrismas in July’ was mentioned in print in was in an article in The Washington Post in 1933. A girls’ summer camp in North Carolina held a Yuletide celebration complete with a trimmed tree, gifts, and a visit by Santa Claus. The National Recreation Association’s journal, Recreation, also wrote about it in 1935, describing it as “all mystery and Wonder surround this annual event.” (Washington Post, November 13, 1933)
The pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. brought the tradition with him from Philadelphia, where his congregation would celebrate the holiday during summer as a way to gather gifts early enough to ensure distribution through their global missions. By 1945, the service was broadcast over local radio. (Washington Post, July 11, 1942)
Christmas in July was popular during World War II. It was used as a way to promote an early Christmas mailing campaign for those serving overseas. (Washington Post, July 12, 1943)
The current tradition is often credited to a group of tourists from Ireland who vacationed in Australia’s Blue Mountains, located in New South Wales July 1980. The Mountain Heritage Hotel claims they “saw snowflakes dancing in the wind, and felt celebrating Christmas during summer didn’t quite feel the same.” Garry Crockett, the owner of the hotel, recreated the holiday traditions at the hotel for his guests. The Blue Mountains Yulefest is now an annual celebration. (Travel)
Other Southern Hemisphere countries also celebrate Christmas in July, where it is commonly known as Midwinter Christmas. Christmas is also celebrated on December 25th in these countries, keeping with religious tradition.
– Donna Klein
“The American Stage: Writing on Theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner – Library of America.” The American Stage: Writing on Theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner. Ed. Laurence Senelick. 569., n.d. Web. 26 July 2016.
“Blue Mountains Yulefest.” About.com Travel. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 July 2016.
“Calvary Baptist Church Holds ‘Christmas-in-July’ Service”, The Washington Post, July 12, 1943, p. B1.
“‘Christmas in July’ Luncheon Opens Drive To Speed Gift Mailing to Armed Forces”, The New York Times, July 28, 1944, p. 15.
“Christmas in July Theme of Calvary Church Service”, The Washington Post, July 11, 1942, p. 6.
“Summer Santa Fun, Says Camp Head”, The Washington Post, November 13, 1933, p. 9.