What is this ‘Christmas in July’ thing and how do we respond to it?

This summer I’ve heard the phrase “Christmas in July” on a regular basis. Emails advertising sales, happy hours, even a notice in the elevator of my building for an upcoming Santa-themed pool party.

When and why did this become a thing?

A quick Google search offers a few answers: a 1930’s summer camp event, a 1940’s movie of the same name, and a 1980’s story of summer vacationers who celebrated upon coming across a snow-capped mountain. But the sudden prominence might be more due to retailers looking for an excuse to have a sale in the holiday drought between July 4th and Labor Day (which explains why it’s in July and not June, the actual midpoint).

I suppose there’s no harm in the whole thing. So go ahead — throw a pool party, enjoy the retail sales, help the needy!

Wait…what was that last part? Oh yeah, that holiday spirit in which we help the needy.

You might not realize it but many food banks and shelters experience unmet needs during the summer and they need your help now as much as they do in November and December.

When I was living in Washington, DC some years ago, I along with my coworker Joe Montano delivered boxes from our office’s holiday canned food drive to a local non-profit called Martha’s Table. While we were unloading the truck, Joe asked them if January was a slow month by comparison, and the staff explained that it’s actually the summer months that can be tough for organizations like theirs.

There are a number of reasons for this: kids who experience food insecurity cannot always rely on school for a meal in the summer time, people of all ages struggle in extreme heat and thus need water, organizations have fewer volunteers, and rising temperatures can make it harder to move fresh food (many food banks are working to offer more fresh produce).

Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation — food insecurity impacted more than 40 million Americans as recently as 2015. It’s probably touched someone you know.

We can respond to “Christmas in July” not just by opening up our wallets but by opening up our hearts. Here are some ways you can help do something about it all year long:

  1. Locate your local food bank, shelter, or similar organization and sign up for the email list.
  2. Volunteer your time or donate the food they need most.
  3. If you’re too busy to volunteer — donate $10 or whatever you can afford. Many food banks buy in bulk so they can stretch your dollar farther than you can (I now live in Austin and donate to Caritas).
  4. Get a friend or family member to get involved with you.

I encourage you to find a local organization, but if you prefer to give to a national group both Feeding America and Share our Strength receive positive ratings in the non-profit world.

Together we can make this the best “Christmas in July” ever!