Christmas in July

I absolutely love Christmas time – the preparations, the decorations, the theming, the table setting, trimming the tree, the gift sourcing, the gift buying and, naturally the gift wrapping.

As soon as Christmas finishes, I am thinking about the next one. I love picking up Christmas treasures at the Boxing Day sales (and judging by the amount of determined opposition I face scrimmaging for the best bauble, I am not the only one). Therefore, you would think I would be an absolute sucker for the concept of Christmas in July. But truth be told I am still warming to this particularly Southern Hemisphere of concepts and the jury is still out.

Christmas in July is of course born of the strong attachment to the celebration, illustration and participation in Christmas rituals when it is snowing or at the very least extremely cold outside. For Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans who live South of the Equator, Christmas time is at the warmest time of the year which hardly lends itself to full roast dinners, puddings, egg nog or mulled wine. Aussies are more likely to be filling platters with prawns and beautiful leafy salads and sipping chilled crisp wines while desperately trying to stay cool and hydrated.

But some still hanker for the ability to celebrate Christmas in the atmosphere of the Northern Hemisphere – because that’s part of their heritage or because they love a good party in front of a crackling fire – hey, I am not here to judge. So Christmas in July was born.

There does not appear to be any definitive date or definitive origin of Christmas in July, but there are a few pointers. Firstly, I should distinguish Christmas in July from Half Christmas which is celebrated every year on June 25 as exactly six months before Christmas. Half Christmas gained notoriety a few years ago in the Comedy Central Series Workaholics where the guys went on strike when their boss would not let them observe their half Christmas holiday.

No Christmas in July, also referred to as Yuletide or Yulefest is a full-on Christmas event usually celebrated on 25 July and if 25 July does not fall on a weekend, then it is celebrated on the nearest weekend. Some celebrate Christmas in July for the whole month of July while still others go for the whole season of winter – now come on…too much!!!

Yuletide has this whole Pagan history going but Christmas in July as we know it began to appear in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s around the Blue Mountains in NSW, and it appears the Blue Mountains remain the Christmas in July epicentre. According to The Mountain Heritage ,it all began when a small group of Irish travelled to The Blue Mountains for a taste of the winter climate of their homeland.

Legend has it  – well at least the legend of the Mountain Heritage Hotel –  that as the Irishmen and women sat in front of a roaring log fire at The Mountain Heritage, they glanced out the window and saw snowflakes falling. Apparently one of the group commented to their host and owner of the hotel Garry Crockett “Celebrating Christmas in Australia during the heat of summer just doesn’t feel quite the same”. The quick thinking Garry of Irish ancestry offered to re-create a festive European Christmas atmosphere at Mountain Heritage for his guests. Carollers anyone?

Word began to spread far and wide of the”out-of-season” festive event at Mountain Heritage and queries began flowing in. “Christmas in July” was born! Today the tradition has become known as “Yulefest” and lives on throughout the Blue Mountains in the winter months of June, July and August. Other regions have tried to emulate the event, but none have pulled it off like the Blue Mountains, where the tradition remains strong.

I get it for the Blue Moutains, but I kind of don’t get it because there are many parts of Australia where it simply isn’t cold in July. There’s many many places where’s there is no snow and very few log fires. Besides, if this is all about having an excuse to cook roasts and puddings, you can certainly do that without the Christmas intervention. I was really rather proud of a pork roast with all the trimmings we made the other night.

I have, however, been asked to wrap quite a few little Christmas in July gifts. They don’t tend to be as big or as many in number as the real deal Christmas and very much to reflect the traditional Christmas looks and particularly the winter wonderland wrapping style.  I still hanker for December and I think the whole Christmas in July concept is a bit laboured from a retail point of view but I should transparently say, it gives me a chance to whip out my Christmas wrapping looks and harness my inner snowflake. I never need a second excuse to do that. Perhaps I need to go to the Blue Mountains in NSW and give it a proper try.

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