Christmas in July brings a sprinkling of festive cheer to the winter months in Australia and our Southern Hemisphere friends in New Zealand and South Africa. It’s a chance to embrace the trappings of a Northern Hemisphere Christmas so different to summertime celebrations – gathering with friends while keeping warm and cosy, sipping mulled wine or egg nogg, enjoying a hot meal, and engaging in a snow fight if you are very lucky.

While the derivation of the event is not entirely clear, it’s existence is often attributed to a group of Irish tourists who found themselves in the Blue Mountains in the early 80’s staring wistfully at snow. Legend has it that they talked a local hotelier into staging a Yuletide Feast to take advantage of the wintery vista

Christmas in July has been bubbling away ever since, particularly with expats yearning for their Northern Hemisphere home. There is no “official date” but it is typically held in July in the depths of a Southern Hemisphere winter and often on 25 July as an homage to the real thing on 25 December. As expected there’s added interest when 25 July falls on a weekend.

I wasn’t always a devotee of Christmas in July, but I have warmed to it because I love Christmas, I love a theme, I love wrapping gifts and I love a gathering especially with those I know I won’t be able to catch up with come December. It’s a great way for blended, large or even complex families to have a dedicated Christmas gathering without the angst that can accompany the real thing.

I do get out the gift wrap, the decorations, cool weather recipes and include a gift exchange but with strict guidelines!  You bring one gift and you receive one gift. Gifts and gift wrap may only be recycled, reused, home made, home baked or home assembled with ingredients or fixings costing less than $10.00. No tech, gadgets or the latest consumer goods. I award extra points for winter theming because let’s face it, someone who finds a recycled Christmas “ugly” sweater at a thrift shop in July in Australia deserves extra recognition.

I have other mid year festive guidelines. The main one is a freeze on phones or devices during the gathering (unless there is a safety reason) – these must be placed in a Santa sack till departure. I have a “good vibes only” rule too as it’s about participation not perfection. I also have a polaroid camera (now enjoying a resurgence with the cool kids) and each guest can take one photo for the annual album.

I find these guidelines put a focus on the gathering rather than on the gifts and can be so well received that the approach can be adopted come December when winter is but a misty memory.