As a part of welcoming the coldest month of the year, the people of the southern hemisphere often celebrate Christmas in July by making it an unofficial holiday and taking advantage of the cozy nature of their winter season.
Not only in Australia and New Zealand, but many other southern countries celebrate Christmas during their summer with full festivity (and make a perfect excuse to settle in with friends and family to enjoy a delightful winter feast). People join in and offer seasonal packages and menus for all to enjoy. From ski trips to night markets, there is a range of entertainment you can enjoy for the whole month!
But why do they do that on the first place? We already have Christmas day on the 25th December, right?
- Who celebrates Christmas in July?
- When do they celebrate this summer Christmas?
- How did Christmas in July begin?
- Why do Australians celebrate Christmas in the summer?
- How do people in the southern hemisphere celebrate Christmas during summer?
- Some fun facts about Christmas in July
- How do people celebrate this summer Christmas in the northern hemisphere (infographic)
Let’s take a closer look.
Many countries in both the southern and northern hemispheres celebrate (or at least recognize) this with the reversed seasons.
In the southern hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Madagascar, Paraguay, etc. celebrate this largely. In comparison, the popularity in the northern hemisphere is less – only observed in some parts of the USA and Canada.
While it’s widely observed on the 25th of July, you’ll find Christmas in July sales and events throughout the whole month in Australia and New Zealand. However, in the USA and Canada, it is observed on 12th or 15th July – depending on the region.
The precise origin of celebrating Christmas in July is still not very clear.
The common belief is that the Christmas celebration in July started in Europe around the 80s, to enjoy Christmas in summer. Since Australia (and similar countries) falls under the southern hemisphere, the inhabitants of these countries have adopted the concept for the exact opposite reason – allowing them to experience Christmas in winter instead.
Another widespread explanation connects this unique tradition with ‘Yulefest’ which is said to originate in 1980. It’s being told that a group of Irish tourists went on a vacation in Sydney’s Blue Mountains and celebrated like it was Christmas. The ceremony was an instant success as the proprietor saw a potential customer base, by welcoming more visitors to this unique festival during the time of Australian winter. The idea of being able to enjoy two Christmas in the same year became a popular technique to attract tourists ever since.
As Australia is in the Southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed – when the Northern hemisphere is experiencing winter, they are experiencing summer. So when the rest of the world celebrates the birth of Christ on 25th December, Australians (and the folks of New Zealand) celebrate that eve during their summer.
However, when it’s winter in Australia (usually in July), they could not help but take advantage of the seasonal festivity and celebrate the 25th of July as ‘Christmas’ – spending wonderful family time with foods and activities, or go out with friends for a night ski, Blue Mountain Christmas roast, sleeping wearing Ugg boots, etc.
To Aussies and Kiwis, celebrating Christmas in July is more of an excuse to feast on delicious foods and night-long parties, than its religious significance.
Music: Unlike traditional Christmas, Aussies celebrate their winter Christmas with a fusion of all kinds of happy, pop music from the 80s and 90s. In most cases, the day starts with some classic Christmas carols but eventually the jukebox moves to traditional holiday songs with a mixture of popular contemporary music tracks. They bring the whole vibe of the Christmas season throughout the week.
Decorations: The usual Christmassy atmosphere is set using the traditional decorations in residences, yard, streets – and pretty much everywhere! They stir up the festivity the day before Christmas by adding candles, handing tinsels-wreath on the front door, and scattering festive Christmas gifts. The Christmas illumination all around the snowy decks and streets is undoubtedly one of the best things to experience in Australian July!
Sale: Falling close to the end of the financial year many shops capitalize on both of these events crafting many Christmas-themed sales and even releasing limited edition Christmas items.
Food: The best thing about Christmas in July is none other than food! That’s why Aussies and Kiwis take full advantage of the winter to fill up on all the rich and decadent courses they can. The traditional celebration comes with a five-course degustation of roast turkey, glazed ham, chicken, pork, trimmings, and sides like roast potatoes, steamed veggies, etc. As for the Christmas desserts, delicious gourmet Christmas pudding is a must addition along with other varieties of condiments.
Parties: July Christmas gives way to some of the best parties during Australian winter. The Blue Mountains offers a traditional white Christmas celebration allowing friends and family, to gather around a crackling fire and enjoy the snow. Even in residences, it’s a great occasion for family reunions, preparing homemade gourmet cookies, and exchanging souvenirs.
The term could have originated in France in the late 18th century
Most probably, the origin of the term ‘Christmas in July’ can be dated way back to 1892. A famous French opera named Werther included a scene where a group of children rehearses a Christmas carol in July; where one of the characters responded, “If you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.”
The Vaudeville performers took the chance
Around 1915, a group of Vaudeville performers would gather in one of their summer colonies in Long Island with the intention to celebrate Christmas on the 4th of July. The reason behind this was, summer was the only offseason for them. During the winter, especially in December, there was no time to celebrate 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. So, they would wait until the summer when everyone could be together and have some fun. Makes sense!
First time it was printed on newspaper
It was 1933 when the first time the term ‘Christmas in July’ was mentioned in print media. It was an article in The Washington Post. A girls’ summer camp in North Carolina held a Yuletide celebration 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.”
A screwball comedy coined the term
With the release of the Hollywood film Christmas in July in 1940, the phrase entered into common vocabulary. Even though the plot wasn’t necessarily related, as it was centered around the story of a man who mistakenly believes he has won a $25,000 lottery and buys presents for his friends and family in July. It was originally used in the movie to invoke the idea that “Christmas has come early”. However, since then, it took on a more literal sense.
Here’s the trailer of the movie, if you’re interested:
Its popularity spread in the 1940s
With the movie a commercial success, American advertisers had a big hand in popularising the idea throughout the mid-40s, for its commercial purposes. In 1944, various advertisers teamed up with the US Army, Navy, and other government bodies to throw a big Christmas in July celebration, which was a huge success.
How about having a second Christmas (like the ‘second breakfast‘) during the summer?
Yes, if you’re living in the northern hemisphere and want to have some summer fun with family and friends, you can arrange a summer Christmas by decorating your yard with boughs of holly and host the best party of the summer. With ice cream, cookie snowballs, Grandma’s cool summer eggnog, Christmas movies, and a beautifully lit Christmas tree, you have the perfect recipe for a family night of joy and laughter.
Here are some cool ideas shred by the folks from Tree Classics –
Interesting, isn’t it?
With the different cultural and religious values of Christmas, celebrating it in July adds another flavor. The good people in the southern hemisphere countries, especially Aussies and Kiwis, are observing this occasion with great significance and growing festivities.
You too can join the fun and plan a short tour to these places, next summer, maybe?