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Christmas in July refers to Christmas-themed celebrations held in July.
In the southern hemisphere, winter falls in July. Therefore in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in order to have Christmas with a winter feel Christmas in July events are undertaken. However, Christmas in December, the usual month, is a far more common practice, despite it being summer.
In the northern hemisphere some people throw parties during July that mimic Christmas celebrations, bringing the atmosphere of Christmas but with warmer temperatures. Parties may include Santa Claus, ice cream and other cold foods, and gifts. Nightclubs often host parties open to the public. It is often used in part because July is a hot and summer month in the northern hemisphere which provides irony to the celebration of Christmas which usually takes place in the cold.
In some western countries, July has a limited number of marketing opportunities. In the United States and Canada, there are no national holidays between the first week of July (Canada Day on July 1 in Canada and American Independence Day on July 4 in the United States) and Labo(u)r Day (the first Monday in September for both the US and Canada), leaving two months with no holidays. (Some Canadian provinces hold a civic holiday in August, but this is not a national holiday.) The late July period provides relatively few opportunities for merchandising, since it is typically after the peak of summer product sales in June and early July, but before the back to school shopping period begins in August. Therefore, to justify sales, shops (such as Leon's in Canada) will sometimes announce a Christmas in July sale.
Werther, an 1892 opera with libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet, and Georges Hartmann, had an English translation published in 1894 by Elizabeth Beall Ginty. In the story, a group of children rehearses a Christmas song in July, to which a character responds, "When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season." It is a translation of the French, "vous chantez Noël en juillet... c'est s'y prendre à l'avance." This opera is based on Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. Christmas features in the book, but July does not.
The earliest known occasion to make the phrase Christmas in July literal was in July 1933 at Camp Keystone, a girl's summer camp in North Carolina, which celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts, and a visit by Santa Claus. In 1935, the National Recreation Association's journal Recreation described what a Christmas in July was like at a girl's camp, writing that "all mystery and wonder surround this annual event."
The term, if not the exact concept, was given national attention with the release of the Hollywood movie comedy Christmas in July in 1940, written and directed by Preston Sturges. In the story, a man is fooled into believing he has won $25,000 in an advertising slogan contest. He buys presents for family, friends and neighbors, and proposes marriage to his girlfriend.
In 1942, the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., celebrated Christmas in July with carols and the sermon Christmas Presents in July. They repeated it in 1943, with a Christmas tree covered with donations. The pastor explained that the special service was patterned after a program held each summer at his former church in Philadelphia, when the congregation would present Christmas gifts early to give ample time for their distribution to missions worldwide. It became an annual event, and in 1946 the service began to be broadcast over local radio.
The U.S. Post Office and U.S. Army and Navy officials, in conjunction with the American advertising and greeting card industries, threw a Christmas in July luncheon in New York in 1944 to promote an early Christmas mailing campaign for service men and women overseas during World War II. The luncheon was repeated in 1945.
American advertisers began using Christmas in July themes in print for summertime sales as early as 1950. In the United States, it is more often used as a marketing tool than an actual holiday. Television stations may choose to re-run Christmas specials, and many stores have Christmas in July sales. Some individuals choose to celebrate Christmas in July themselves, typically as an intentionally transparent excuse to have a party. This is in part because most bargainers tend to sell Christmas goods around July to make room for next year's inventory.
Since 2009, Christmas in July has been celebrated in August in some Australian communities to accommodate internationally diverse timings and calendars. Celebrations include preparing both meat-based and vegetarian roasts, setting up a Christmas tree, and 'Secret Santa' style gift-giving. Christmas-themed costumes are encouraged, but not obligatory, and dual appearances of Green Lanterns have been reported at several celebrations (2012 and 2013). Elaborate desserts made popular in Northern Hemisphere Christmas celebrations, such as gingerbread houses and plum puddings, are also prepared, with great ceremony. Christmas in July in August has also been reportedly celebrated in other months, including April 2012 (West Coast and East Coast of Australia), and is anticipated to be celebrated in September 2013 (West Coast of Australia).