67. Do they know it’s Christmas?

I’m feeling a little embarrassed. I was going to amaze all my Northern Hemisphere readers with the strange new tradition that has recently sprung up down here in the South Africa. Christmas in July.

But I'm completely out of shape!

But I’m completely out of shape!

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere can be a little incongruous. It happens in midsummer. And it’s hot here. Everyone sets off for seaside holidays or trips down to the bush. There are bikinis and board-shorts, ice-cream and swimming parties.

Dashing through the snow On a one-horse open sleigh.

Dashing through the snow
On a one-horse open sleigh.

Then you walk into a mall. Santa is there, in his icy little grotto with plastic reindeer scattered artfully about. Someone is crooning about white Christmases and chestnuts roasting on open fires. There are elves. In little fake fur jackets. It’s all somehow a little bit off.

And then there’s Christmas dinner. Shovelling down obscenely large piles of turkey and ham swimming in gravy and applesauce during a 35 degree Celsius heat wave just never seemed quite right. Although we never seemed to let that slow us down.

And then, about ten years ago, my dad heard about a nearby hotel that was having Christmas in July. Brilliant. It was cold. People might actually be roasting chestnuts. It was ham weather. We liked it. So we’ve been doing it ever since. With Christmas trees. And presents. And crackers.

Ham weather.

Ham weather.

A few other South Africans have been doing it too. It’s a brilliant idea. Two Christmases! Presents! Ham! We were on the cusp of a new cultural wave! Pioneers! Pathfinders! People with ham!

Which leads me to the embarrassing part. It is a good idea. An old one. About a hundred years old. This morning I idly typed “Christmas in July” into Google. It turns out that everyone else has been doing it for years. There’s even a bit of a Christmas in July thing in the Northern Hemisphere. Everyone wants to shovel down obscenely large piles of turkey and ham in the blazing sun.

Any weather is ham weather.

Any weather is ham weather.

And it all starts to look a little sinister when you think about it. Christmas is, for better or worse, all about money these days. There are retailers out there who run at a loss throughout the year, and only turn a profit in December. But it’s a pretty damn big profit. Enough to carry them through the lean times.

Retailers quite like profit. It’s one of their favourite things. The middle of the year is the quietest time in retail. But what if? What if you could drive everyone into a gift buying frenzy twice a year? What if you could start up a widespread new tradition where people never spoke of “the true meaning of Christmas”? What if you could have a special time of year where people could happily worship greed and not have to worry about the Baby Jesus?

Help! I'm being crushed by the true meaning of Christmas!

Help! I’m being crushed by the true meaning of Christmas!

The Christmas in July thing in South Africa hasn’t quite got there yet. It’s more of an excuse for families to get together and eat ham. But things are starting to stir up. Christmas crackers were available. So was the ham. Someone has spotted a trend, and they’re starting to wake up to it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but our Christmas in July is not about presents at all. We all buy a few cheap trinkets for the kids, just to fuel the illusion, but for us it’s just another excuse to get together. We happen to be quite fond of each other. But I’m waiting. Give it a few years and the malls will be decked with boughs of holly, and that crooner will be going on about his chestnuts again, while the advertisers fuel our children’s lust for PlayStations and Barbie Dolls.

Barbie. The Christmas in July edition.

Barbie. The Christmas in July edition.

I’m not so keen on that myself. If that happens, I think we’ll stop. We’ll have to find something else. Easter in September sounds quite fun. Easter with ham.


46 thoughts on “67. Do they know it’s Christmas?

  1. choppy123 says:

    Africa and Australia are so similar, we, too have Christmas in July, in fact, really, we are quite lucky, we get to celebrate it twice a year, once in our bikinis( well may have done once, but don’t really do the bikini thing anymore,) but you get the gist and once in our winter woollies, not sure the hip pocket thinks its so good though 😦

  2. albertine says:

    I moved from the warm normaility of Australian Christmases to the UK. Now I find myself singing carols when the weather warms up and the schools are winding down towards the summer holidays. That would be fine, but my kids object when I sing in supermarkets. I think it’s the watermelon that brings it on.

  3. Yes, Christmas in July is starting to get popular in Australia too (where it is also hot at Christmas time in December) and again, yes, it is not about presents here at the moment either…. it is more about adults getting together – any excuse for a party!

  4. kokkieh says:

    Just got an e-mail from Exclusive Books offering me a Christmas in July special. The commercialization has already begun and I only found out about it a couple of days ago with your post.

  5. mariekeates says:

    One Christmas a year is bad enough thank you very much. Don’t go putting ideas in people’s heads or my kids might find out.

  6. narf77 says:

    Did you ever wonder why mothers day was smack bang between Christmas and easter? And then Fathers day was in September, midway between “Christmas in July” and actual baby Jesus Christmas? A cynical person might think that there was some kind of monetary motivation to be selecting holidays so equidistant from each other to even out the profit margin…

  7. There is a growing “Christmas in July” here in Australia too – it is an excuse to eat all those traditional English foods like roast meals and plum pudding that we think are too much for our hot December Christmas. Of course we still eat it then too.

  8. Look at me just commenting on your blog from the other side of the world! Australia is nice and all but really, there’s just not enough ham yet. Keep one curing for me.

  9. digger666 says:

    If it’s any consolation, the shops in London are opening their Christmas departments just about now and one nightclub on the edge of the City has been taking Christmas 2013 bookings since last February.

    • 23thorns says:

      🙂 If the current trend continues, they’ll be opening in January for Christmas in July. I predict “Jingle Bells” related killing sprees!

  10. I remember doing Christmas in July one year, with friends, because we were so fed up with the weeks of dull, wet weather that we’d been having that we thought Christmas (probably with chicken rather than turkey, and ham) would cheer everyone up. We had to make home made crackers and decorations, but it was fun.

  11. Lyn says:

    Maybe you should have combined your safari and Christmas in July, Mr. 23Thorns and saved some money. Invited a few giraffes. Any hormonal problems could be adjusted by additives to the Christmas pudding 🙂

  12. Jocelyn Hers says:

    Do you like ham, by any chance?

  13. Ha, ha, great post. You should live in Alaska and suffer through the snow and sub-zero temps to get a “true” feel for Christmas. It’s not about greed or baby Jesus, it’s about staying warm, or at least trying to stay warm. And forget the ham, it’s chowing down caribou and moose steaks while still dressed in camo-printed jammies. Cheers,

  14. I dislike christmas no matter what time of year it is. Ba humbug.

  15. Office Diva says:

    If you research Christianity, you’ll find that Jesus probably wasn’t born in December, but the Christians had to find something shiny to capture the Pagans’ attention and compete with their solstices, as someone pointed out above. Maybe Christ’s birth was closer to February, I’m not exactly sure. The certainty is that it wasn’t in December. So why not toss the holidays around a bit? Easter is another “let’s copy the Pagans” fertility holiday (rabbits, eggs, abundance anyone?).
    In Texas, sometimes the weather is so mild at Christmas that we have to use the A/C to fake a chill. Brrrr!
    Very fun post, as usual.

  16. I’ve been to Christmas in July once or twice but it’s not a huge thing in my circles thankfully. We did nearly have a Christmas in July the other week with friends but it was more about meeting for dinner and just having the trappings cos they taste good. I hope it never becomes a big thing here as Christmas nad Easter are both commercial enough. People even give Easter cards and gifts here sometimes. Ridiculous!

    • 23thorns says:

      It’s all about the food and party for us, too. the gifts we got for the kids were throwaway bits of tat from the Chinese supermarket. But that will all change once the retailers get hold of it.

  17. syrbal says:

    Some of us pagans kind of have it right without the huge money-spending connotations (tho’ gift giving CAN apply). We celebrate the Solstices….the Winter Solstice is usually the one with gifts and lots of light to brighten the long nights. The Southern Hemisphere folks celebrate that one as we Northern sorts celebrate Summer Solstice…with bonfires, beer, water-fights and other long-lit-skies kinds of things.

  18. da_truth36 says:

    Can I infer from this post that you have a thing for ham?
    Also, I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Please don’t ever quit writing.

  19. Rob says:

    Christmas in July in Oz doesn’t mean presents, at least among the (possibly tight-wad) folks we know. It’s an excuse to pig out at restaurants (that money thing again) or better still at friends’ place (where they do the work and we bring one course. Ham maybe). It may not be snowing, but it’s better weather for that heavy tucker.

  20. A.J. Goode says:

    My family always did Christmas in July up here in Michigan, but that was because we lived on a beach. It was a LOT easier to gather the relatives there in the summer than on “Real Christmas”.

    Hey, anything that gets me presents twice a year.

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