North Carolina summer camp credited for starting ‘Christmas in July’ tradition

Keystone Camp held first celebration in 933
An all-girls summer camp in Western North Carolina is credited for starting the "Christmas in July" tradition in 1933
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
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BREVARD, N.C. (FOX Carolina) - While the concept of celebrating Christmas during the month of July has inspired songs, greeting cards and even holiday-themed programming on the Hallmark Channel, the origin of the celebration can be traced to an all-girls summer camp.

Keystone Camp occupies a woodsy spot of Transylvania County about one mile away from downtown Brevard. For over a century, families have sent generations of girls there to learn life lessons through outdoor activities. Campers who attend the four-week session experience the Keystone tradition of celebrating Christmas in July.

“Fanny Holt, one of the founders of Keystone, thought it would be a fun celebration to celebrate Christmas in the middle of the year...(to) break up the monotony of the daily routine,” Jess Wiegandt, executive director, told FOX Carolina. “1933 was the first year to celebrate, and the first national article about it came out in 1939.”

The activities surrounding the celebration have varied throughout the years, along with Santa’s dramatic arrival. This year, the counselor playing the role slid down a water slide in a kayak and read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from the water.

The off-season celebration seems anything but absurd to many of the campers.

“I find it so joyous and awesome and it brightens everyone’s spirits,” said Betsy Goodrum, a nine-year veteran of Keystone.

Wiegandt said the camp aims at empowering girls through their camp experiences, and the Christmas celebration enhances the mission.

“(It’s) helping them learn how to loosen up and go with the flow,” Wiegandt said.