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Article: Did Christmas in July start in Australia?

Did Christmas in July start in Australia?

This is a very fair question, considering how popular Christmas in July is in the land down under! You might remember our blog back in 2022 where we did a deep dive into the origins of Christmas in July, but with our Bonbon Fusion founder recently asking whether the tradition began in the Blue Mountains in Australia, it’s clearly time for a revisit!

christmas in july australian origins

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Christmas in July didn’t originate in the southern hemisphere for those craving a white Christmas experience. Its century-old roots lie, in fact, in the northern hemisphere among vaudeville actors in Long Island, New York. Vaudeville shows were demanding, often leaving actors with little time off during the Christmas season. So, seeking a break during summer theatre closures, the Long Island Good Hearted Thespians Society (LIGHTS) began hosting Christmas celebrations in July from about 1915 to 1930 at their Freeport clubhouse. Good-hearted indeed!

Vaudevellian Old Time Christmas In July

A Vaudevillian Christmas in July
Credit: My Merry Christmas

Christmas in July Takes to the Stage and Screen

Christmas in July gained broader attention when the creative Miss Fannie Holt introduced it at Keystone Camp in Brevard, North Carolina, with a stage show on the 24th and 25th July, 1933. The event featured carols, a decorated Christmas tree and even simulated snow, which created a festive atmosphere despite the summer heat (averaging around 30°C!) And, of course, Santa made a most welcome non-seasonal visit!

Miss Holt aimed to offer camp participants an entertaining experience that moved beyond traditional winter festivities. And, judging by the happy atmosphere in this picture, we think she definitely succeeded!

1900s christmas in july party

Christmas in July in 1933
Credit: Country Living

The tradition gained more traction in popular culture with the 1940 film “Christmas in July”, a romantic comedy portraying a neighbourhood that was transformed by an early Christmas celebration. It’s a delightful story with a happy ending, perfect for watching as you celebrate later this month!

The Tradition Catches On

Christmas in July soon spread beyond theatre circles and was, somewhat surprisingly, adopted at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Starting in 1942, the congregation celebrated Christmas in July much like they would in December, including gift giving, carols, and a Christmas-themed sermon. By 1946, the church service had become so popular that it was broadcasted on local radio, thus establishing Christmas in July throughout the community.

In 1944, the U.S. Post Office, together with officials from the U.S. Army and Navy, teamed up with American greeting card companies to launch a Christmas in July campaign campaign. This wonderful initiative encouraged people to send their holiday greetings early to soldiers stationed overseas during World War II.

And so, the Christmas in July tradition was born! Yet, as we mentioned in our earlier blog, the concept itself had actually originated much earlier - back in the 19th century.

An Unexpected Beginning

The idea of celebrating Christmas in July can be traced back to the 1892 French opera "Werther" by Jules Massenet. While the opera's storyline featured Christmas themes, it was a scene depicting French children rehearsing a Christmas song in July that inadvertently sparked the concept of celebrating Christmas out of season. And from there, sprang the wonderful Christmas in July tradition.

Christmas in july origin

“Werther” – First Mention of Christmas in July

Credit: eClassical

And now back to our starting question about Christmas in July in Australia…

Spreading Southward

Christmas in July gained popularity in the southern hemisphere, including countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with people looking to recreate a winter Christmas experience during the colder month of July (although the 25th July is a scheduling guide rather than a rule!)

In Australia, the tradition owes much of its popularity to Irish tourists who visited the Blue Mountains in 1980. Inspired by their desire to replicate a winter Christmas atmosphere, it seems they persuaded a local hotel owner to host a Yulefest party. The event was a resounding success and has since become a highlight of winter attractions in the Blue Mountains, particularly in Katoomba.

Ever since, Australians have enthusiastically celebrated Christmas in July, often with feasts of roast turkey and hot beverages (think mead or hot chocolate), together with all the de rigueur Christmas decorations and traditions, such as gift-giving and a visit from Santa. And the best part is coming together with family and friends for a great celebration … with bonbons, of course!

Celebrating christmas in july australia

An Australian Christmas in July
Credit: Mashable

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