Why 'Christmas in July' has special meaning for me (hint: it's not what you think)

Be it in the historical sense, the spiritual sense, the giving sense, the uniting sense, or the purely joyful sense, Christmas and all that it has meant to billions of men, women, and especially children over the centuries, is ever so quickly being swept away from us for a variety of reasons.

Whether out of political correctness, fear of pushing back against those who enforce political correctness, waning faith, or the exponentially growing distractions of technology, Christmas, its real meaning, or even the secular messages of good associated with it, seems smaller, more fragile, and less relevant with each new December.

As children, my brother Jay, my sister Janice and I grew up in abject poverty and were often homeless.  Because of that reality, we did not experience much of commercial Christmas as children.

Last year about this time, my brother Jay – who, with each passing day as he battles a serious illness with a smile forever on his face, has become my one true hero and inspiration – discussed the importance to us of “Christmas in July.”

Since we were kids, we have never been able to get enough of the holiday.  Not because we wanted, needed, or expected presents, but because of the inner-peace, spirituality, and anticipation we would feel knowing what Christmas truly represented to countless people in some degree of discomfort, despair, or suffering.

In a word, it meant and means everything.

“Christmas in July” did start out as a mid-year spiritual reminder of the birth of the Baby Jesus.

For us, “Christmas in July” was a great time to recharge our spiritual and charitable batteries.

Its message, its promise, and its human connection gives context to faith – it tells us those we love will soon be near, it feeds our need to nurture and help others, and it renews our hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday and that there is a meaning greater than us all.

To be sure, “Christmas in July” – with many groups over the decades in various parts of the world claiming to have originated the mini-holiday – did start out as a mid-year spiritual reminder of the birth of the Baby Jesus.

Unfortunately, like the birth commemorating that most meaningful of days for people the world over, “Christmas in July” has been hijacked, cheapened, secularized, and repackaged into clever marketing campaigns designed to move merchandise and attract viewers.

While that is sadly the new reality, no one is preventing us from taking the mini-holiday back, re-repackaging it, and then proclaiming to the world that “Christmas in July” must serve as a timely reminder as to why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

It must speak to the goodness, blessings, and hope of that day.

As this July comes to a close, let us not give in to what some see as inevitable.  Let us not give up on Christmas or its true messages of faith, love, forgiveness, charity, and joy.

Any secular campaign can be about sales, discounts, and shopping.

“Christmas in July” must and should be about Christmas.       

Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir "The Forty Days: A Vision of Christ's Lost Weeks." (Simon & Schuster, 2016).