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My wife occasionally bursts into song when it’s just the two of us at home. “You have a really good voice,” I compliment her. “You should be singing in the choir.”
She disagrees: “My voice isn’t that good. Remember, I didn’t even make the varsity choir in high school.”
I think she’s improved.
I heard her again the other day. She had the pitch and the tune down pat, but something was just not right.
The song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” seemed out of place.
“Isn’t that a Christmas song?” I asked as I peeked around the corner.
“Why are you singing a Christmas hymn in the middle of July?”
“I like the song,” she answered.
At least she wasn’t trying to spiritualize her way to a Christmas in July sale.
Not that I fault retailers for dragging Christmas from December into July. What’s a marketer to do when there are no holidays between July 4th and Memorial Day to use as an excuse for a sale? Grab one from another season, of course. Since Christmas is the most commercialized of holidays, it works quite nicely.
But, we can’t totally blame retailers for hijacking Christmas from its December perch.
According to one online source (http://ourfriendben.wordpress.com/) the first Christmas in July was celebrated by an Ohio fraternity in 1884. (I suppose there are worse excuses for having a party.)
But the phrase “Christmas in July” didn’t occur until 10 years later in a movie. In response to a group of children rehearsing a Christmas song in July one of the characters says: “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.”
In 1933, a girls’ camp in North Carolina celebrated Christmas in July by exchanging presents and welcoming a visit from Santa Claus.
“Christmas in July” showed up as a movie title in 1940.
In 1942, the Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. started celebrating Christmas in July with carols and a sermon on the subject. He wanted his congregation to share gifts with those in need as part of a worldwide mission effort.
Meanwhile, during WWII the U.S. Post Office, in conjunction with the military, launched a Christmas in July campaign to assure that those serving overseas received their Christmas cards, letters, and gifts by Christmas.
It wasn’t until the 1950s, at the dawn of the Madmen era, that the advertising agencies picked up on the Christmas in July idea as a way of promoting merchandise.
So, there you have it: For over a century we’ve been celebrating Christmas in July in a variety of ways.
Christmas doesn’t have to happen only in December.
And now with the polar invasion, the temperatures might cool just enough for you to settle around a fireplace, roast chestnuts, and imagine Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
So I ask myself, “Why can’t my wife sing a Christmas song in July?”
She’s not rushing the season; she’s enjoying the presence of Christ as she sings.
After all, the hymn writer wrote the words, “O come, O come Emmanuel.”
If Christ can come to an out of the way country like Judea in an obscure village called Bethlehem, surely he comes to you when you sing about it in July, or any month.
And you don’t have to host a sale as an excuse for your carol.
Editor’s note: Contact David B. Whitlock, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, www.davidbwhitlock.com.