I’m so impressed with all inhabitants of England.
That’s because while I was there over the holidays this year, I discovered that everyone, and I mean pretty much everyone, was strutting festive Christmas sweaters! (Language Note: Sweaters are much more commonly called jumpers in the UK.)
The guy at the car rental place had the fuzzy snowman with a big red scarf and twinkling lights. High brow businessmen on lunch break at Borough Market had puffy snowballs and reindeer antlers popping out from below their blazers. The cashier at the drugstore had the sweater with Santa’s belt, shirt buttons and snowy beard knit in to look like she was in a Santa suit. A group of regular folks out exploring Cambridge’s holiday shops left their coats open to reveal their big snowflakes and skiing penguins.
At first I thought maybe it was a Friday-before-Christmas trend. Then I thought maybe it was just a London thing. Perhaps related to a charity thing (I bet this is part of it). But I saw it in every town I visited, on every day leading up to Christmas.
With so many trends and fads, I was blown away by how common this occurrence was. What a jolly good way to celebrate the season! With my UK friends and family, I never got to the bottom of why it was so popular, just that it was. So big that when I tried shopping for my own sweater, I couldn’t find any (sold out in the shops where I looked!).
Digging deeper, here are the top three reasons why I especially enjoyed seeing the sweaters.
- Young and old, posh and blue-collar, fashion-forward and fashion-clueless, this trend extends to all types. I find that a very, very rare thing in such a diverse, segmented, niche-driven world.
- The trend is, first and foremost — FUN!! It’s a playful, lighthearted, festive thing to wear. Corny or stylish, whatever the case, it’s a style that’s meant to evoke good cheer and smiles.
- In England, it’s okay to call Christmas sweaters, exactly that — Christmas sweaters! The Santas and the reindeer and the elves are not meant to symbolize New Year’s or that untitled event with elves and reindeer that occurs a week before New Year’s. They never are. No one tries to disambiguate the holiday by merely calling it “the holiday sweater” or “seasonal sweater.”
Christmas is its own thing and I find it frustrating that here in the U.S. we feel the need to avoid the word Christmas in any greetings we give. Let me add that I am culprit of this as much as anyone else. And I acknowledge there are the various camps of how Christmas is translated: as a Christian religious holiday, and also as a more commercialized, Santa and the spirit-of-buying-gifts-and-giving Western cultured custom.
True, Christianity is the frontrunner for this widely celebrated holiday. But I found myself this year telling everyone, “enjoy your ‘holidays’ and how were your ‘holidays’?” when I knew very well they celebrate Christmas, and the dates I asked of were post- and pre- other holidays. Plus there’s all those who celebrate the spirit of Christmas whether they relate to any religion or not. To those who don’t celebrate the holiday at all, not the Christ version or the Santa and the spirit of giving version, that’s all good.
But is it really offensive to hear the message? I mean this as an honest, open question. I have a deep respect for all religions, and those who don’t consider themselves religious at all. All belief systems and forms of faith are valuable and important.
For me, I would love to hear from my Hindu friends “Happy Diwali!” or my Muslim friends “Happy Mawlid al-Nabi!” Or my non-religious, science-based friends, “Happy Darwin Day!” I take no offense, and actually I’d love it. It’s so nice to hear about different cultures, different beliefs, different celebrations, and different dates of note. And of course I love to hear, “Happy Hanukkah!” but even better would be to hear “Happy Rosh Hashanah,” since that’s clearly a bigger holiday in the Jewish religion, yet gets less attention in my world than Hannukah since it doesn’t come during that huddle of December holidays.
So I challenge all of you, and I challenge myself, to question the politically correct issue of avoiding all use of the word Christmas, and let’s come together as a nation (and globe) to wear our silly Santa sweaters, but also get to know, understand, and take part in the many other wonderful holidays celebrated across religions and beliefs across the globe!
The more open, understanding and respectful we are of others’ holidays, the more peaceful, more loving, more wonderful our world will be.
So there you have it, my love for Christmas sweaters, summed up! And…I’ve gotta get myself one of these snowman jumpers before next Christmas.
Oh! And I want to give a shout out to my friend, Matt, for modeling his A-MAZING snowman sweater for me: