We’ve all heard the saying before: “That holiday was invented by the Hallmark Channel to sell products.” So if you’ve stumbled across the term “Christmas in July” and thought it was just a marketing gimmick, we’re here to make a case for the contrary. A halfway-through-the-year holiday that captures the essence of Christmas? Think of it as an exciting, surprising, and hilariously awkward way to jazz up your summer surroundings with the thoughts of mistletoe, Rudolph, generosity and joy. Designing a fun holiday celebration for your family, kids, students or coworkers can be a simple and stress-free way to opt into merriness that is otherwise pushed to the end of the year… when we are anything but stress-free.

Most of us in the United States associate Christmas with subsequent winter climates, but it’s important to remember that Christmas is a summer holiday for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere. Australians, for example, traditionally associate Christmas with sunscreen and barbecue smells, beach visits and decking the halls in swimsuits. Embracing the culture of a warm Christmas is a fun way to introduce a thrilling and unexpected theme for a Fourth of July party, happy hour or brunch event. It’s a clever way to brighten your family or coworkers’ day with stockings and gifts, and it’s a wonderful reason to drop by and volunteer with a local charity partner. We’ll show you some ways to celebrate this offbeat holiday and create an unforgettable tradition you will look forward to every year.


So where did Christmas in July begin as a tradition?

Sources from Southern Living trace the origins of Christmas in July to a summer girl’s camp in 1933. Located in Brevard, North Caroline at Keystone Camp, the event was hosted on the July 24-25th weekend after being imagined by their creative camp co-founder, Fannie Holt. Activities included caroling, visiting with Santa Claus, gifts and faux snow. The event grew year after year to feature more elaborate characters and activities, and is traditionally revered by all Keystone camp visitors.

There are dozens of summer camps, bars, event centers and organizations who have continued their own versions of Christmas in July, adding to the stockpile of amazing ideas. We recommend searching online for local Christmas in July events near you to find celebrations free to the public. But if you want to be a real player in this unofficial holiday, here are some great ideas to host your own celebration.

santa on vacation

Design a holiday menu with some fun, summery twists.

Traditional Christmas cuisine includes roasted ham and turkey, candy canes and other holiday treats. A Christmas in July menu could be your excuse to enjoy holiday food during the summer, but consider adding some unique twists to traditional fare:

christmas in july menu ideas

Frozen hot chocolate: in popsicle form with a dollop of whipped cream.

Roasted turkey and ham paninis: slather them with a holiday-flavored herb spread and enjoy them by the pool.

Cocktails with a cranberry or peppermint twist: martinis, mojitos and margaritas are favorites for summer sips, and a holiday flavor update will set the mood.

Rudolph’s flying juice: simply add a maraschino cherry (red reindeer nose) to beverages for the kids or mocktails for the adults.

Snowman sandwiches: You can use your holiday cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes for the kids.

Gingerbread as a summer dessert: serving it over ice cream and fruit are ways to dress up this traditional dessert for warm weather.


Take advantage of summertime with awesome Christmas in July gifts

Once, a friend born in early December told me how frustrating it is to have a birthday that ran into the holidays. Not only are his friends and family too busy to stop their own seasonal hustle and bustle, but his mother admitted that it was challenging to think of so many gifts to buy her son in the same month. She started a tradition every summer and threw a small “half birthday” for her son, allowing him to have a special day halfway through the year that didn’t interfere with a busy (and sometimes lackluster) birthday month. More importantly, it allowed his mom to buy some of the valuable summer gifts that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy in the wintertime such as skates, pool toys, new video games and summer clothes.

Doubling down on the idea of off-season holiday gifts, many retailers are now celebrating big summertime sales. When you already have planned on stocking up on some summer essentials for the family, wrapping up some surprise presents will trick your kids into thinking they’re getting an extra Christmas halfway through the year. Small, inexpensive items such as sunglasses, popsicle molds, custom drink tumblers or arts and crafts sets are perfect choices for meaningful and thoughtful gifts for Christmas in July.

christmas in july gifts and presents

Play up the off-season décor

Some places hold Christmas in July events complete with fake snow and Santa visits. We love the idea of recreating a winter wonderland during the summer holiday, but taking advantage of warm weather is what the fun is all about! Stringing some Christmas lights along the foliage by the pool, lake dock or along a splash pad will instantly elevate the Christmas mood for your outdoor event.

Keeping the celebration indoors? Pull out your Christmas tree and design a theme that incorporates non-traditional colors and decorations. Bright LED light colors like pink, teal and neons make a compelling case for why your tree and decorations should be brightening your living room halfway through the year.

summer christmas decorations

Binge watch Christmas movies

Long summer nights can be hard to fill when you are done with the sun, so consider hosting a Christmas movie party for your circle of family and friends. You can mix and match the classics that your kids haven’t seen yet, introduce your friends to your all-time favorite flicks, and take advantage of the Hallmark Channel’s annual Christmas in July movie event. While we’ll re-emphasize that Hallmark didn’t create Christmas in July, they have certainly laid their claim as the undisputed champions of the television event, hosting Christmas movies all month long starting July 9th. Hallmark’s viewers tune in with the same enthusiasm and loyalty as Discovery’s Shark Week. The Hallmark Channel has more Christmas movie content than any other channel, and their lineup for 2021 starts on July 9th. Follow their website for a full rundown of showtimes here:

Hallmark's Christmas in July TV Schedule

We held an informal vote on our Christmas Designers Facebook page last year about our favorite Christmas movies, and it gave us a great list of where to start, so check out the titles in the following chart. We’ll be demanding a recount for 2021, so be sure to follow us on Facebook to submit your vote!

favorite christmas movie chart

Bring the joy to your local community

Christmas ‘tis the season for giving, and it’s important to remember the spirit of generosity and community outreach that is welcome well beyond December. Consider gathering a group of friends, family or coworkers to partner with a local senior facility or children’s hospital. Volunteer to bring candy stockings to leave by their door, read your favorite holiday books, or go caroling in the lobby or rec center. Reach out to the facility’s event coordinator first to make sure that visitors and volunteers are welcome in the wake of COVID. You can also ask them about ways to include their non-denominational residents and how to celebrate Christmas at their facility in the most respectful way.

We encourage you to embrace Christmas in July and form some traditions that you and your loved ones will look forward to sharing every year. Let us know if you embrace Christmas in July at your home or business and what traditions you look forward to celebrating!