Monday, July 25, 2016

The Existential Horror and Pagan Connections of Christmas in July


When we started this project, I expected media built around Christmas in July parties, along with a few "Santa in the off-season" stories, and maybe a few things that related to marketing events. What I wasn't expecting were stories built around pagan themes and elements of horror. But there were quite a few.

It turns out that Christmas in July, for all its jovial connotations, is potentially an extinction level event. In hindsight, I probably should have seen this coming.

At its core, Christmas - or more accurately the Solstice, but they're really one and the same - represents a sort of perceived compact with the seasons. The celebration marks the turning point when the days start growing longer. It's a ritual for bringing back the sun's light and warmth.

In this form, the invocation of Christmas in July can represent a shattering of this compact. But uncoupling Midwinter from its rightful place in time, we're potentially bringing about the coldest, darkest point on the calendar without any guarantee it will end. Arguably, it's an inversion of this moment, so instead of changing from cold to warm, we're transforming the warmth of summer into an endless winter.

Or, to put it in less pretentious terminology, attempting to pull in the pleasant aspects of the holiday can inadvertently break the system it represents.

We see this idea come up frequently in the Christmas in July stories, sometimes in surprising contexts. Transformers: Rescue Bots isn't exactly a deep show, but when a weather machine malfunctions, it nearly brings about eternal winter. We see variations on the same catastrophe almost occur in Phineas and Ferb Save Summer, and It's Punky Brewster. While the causes differ, the core idea remains - the price of bringing winter into summer may be the end of the seasons as we know them... and possibly the end of life.

Similar ideas are played with in Frozen. I've defended this movie as a sort of honorary Christmas movie in the past, but Christmas in July would be more accurate. Once again, the unchecked power of winter threatens to overtake the world. Summer becomes winter, and characters face the possibility it will never change back.

None of this seems to connect with the much more mundane origins of the Christmas in July tradition, but it's a fascinating subset of specials and episodes I assumed would lack any substance. And it makes a nice change of pace from everything focused on taking early Christmas card pictures and throwing ironic holiday parties.

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