Kevin McCallister sported one in the beloved Christmas movie Home Alone; Ralphie occasionally donned one as he set out on his quest to receive that coveted Red Ryder B.B. gun in the famous film A Christmas Story. Christmas sweaters are a staple of the holiday season that resurface every year, depicting every holiday-related theme one can imagine. They come in virtually unlimited variations, from simple and classic to modern and trendy; there are even NFL Christmas sweaters for fans who want to represent their team while celebrating the season’s festivities. Christmas sweaters have really caught on over the past few years, but our modern generation cannot take credit for creating the idea. Patterns for holiday-themed sweaters can be found from as far back as the 1940s and ‘50s. While the concept has been around for decades, the thing that has changed is what it represents. When mothers sat by the fire so many decades ago, knitting sweaters to shield their children from the winter elements, they hardly could have imagined what this cold-weather wardrobe staple would symbolize for so many of us today. What was once meant to keep us warm is now the epitome of looking cool during the holiday season, at least for millennials and all those who have a place in their hearts for holiday cheer with just a hint of tongue-in-cheek humor.
But what sparked our captivation with these festive wardrobe staples? They’ve been around for a while, but have experienced a big moment in the spotlight over the past few years, gaining popularity with everyone from baby boomers to millennials. In 2015, the trend was so massive it even made it to the Tonight Show. Host Jimmy Fallon led a hilarious 12 Days of Christmas Sweaters segment, during which one audience member received a Christmas sweater on the show for 12 consecutive nights.
Perhaps the most well-known culmination of this trend is the ugly Christmas sweater party. The concept is a simple one; get dressed in the tackiest, most obnoxious holiday-themed sweater you can find or create, and go enjoy a fun time with friends. It is up to the host to come up with the details, and there are plenty of resources available to help create your ideal ugly sweater party. It is nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact time and place this trend began, but two men in Vancouver, Canada have claimed the title of hosts of the first “officially recorded” Ugly Christmas Sweater party. This event, which began in 2002 has continued annually and has grown into a massive celebration that is known for selling out 1,000 tickets. The concept has become so popular that December 16 has been officially proclaimed Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.
Ugly Christmas sweater parties have a wide audience, showing up everywhere from college dorms to office parties. I myself have attended one of these parties and gotten a firsthand look at what makes them such a hit. The holiday cheer was flowing, the sweaters were cringe inducing, and the company was merry and bright. Perhaps the appeal of these festivities lies in the simple fact that ugly Christmas sweater parties offer a welcome break from the pressure to be perfect during the holiday season. Instead of trying to have the best celebration with the trendiest gifts and fanciest foods, they give us a chance to be the worst, and truly enjoy ourselves in the process. So whether you borrow a long forgotten garment from the back of your great aunt’s closet this holiday season, or get crafty and take the DIY approach, there is only one rule — the uglier, the better.