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Lurking in the murky depths of many people’s wardrobes is a colorful, brash and (in most cases) highly embarrassing novelty Christmas sweater which, were it not for National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, would probably never see the light of day.

Who knew that something so ugly could also be so beloved? Ridiculous little dogs with smushed faces? Fine! Hideous, but oh-so-comfortable shoes? Dandy! But ugly Christmas sweaters…

The English language doesn’t have a special word for something that’s both ugly and cherished, but other languages do. In Japanese it’s known as busakawa. In French, it’s jolie laide. And the idea is that there are some things in life that are so ugly, they’re beautiful.

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is all about honoring those things that are so ugly that everyone loves them!

History of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

When the “Jingle Bell Sweater” trend began in the 1950s, it was one of the ways that the Christmas and winter holiday season started becoming commercialized in the US and other Western countries. Complete with fancy designs, the ugly sweater was often worn during these days by television personalities. Val Doonican and Andy Williams were some of the people who brought festively decorated sweater designs into popularity, but they quickly slipped away again.

It took a few decades until the sweaters made another surge and, in the 1980s, the ugly sweater became a bit of an iconic statement when worn by television and film fictional characters such as Bill Huxtable (from The Cosby Show) and Clark Griswold (from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).

Fading back into obscurity again in the 1990s, it wasn’t until 2001 when Bridget Jones’ Diary was released that things got even more interesting for ugly sweaters. Mark Darcy, the character played by Colin Firth in the film, sported a ridiculous reindeer ugly sweater (called a “jumper” in this British flick) and that just may have been responsible for reviving the trend in the early 2000s.

Whatever the reason, ugly sweaters came back around and have been more popular than ever. Whether referring to vintage ugly sweaters that your grandma wore, or mass produced ugly sweaters that feature jokes from movies like A Christmas Story or Rudolph, or perhaps even something that has been custom decorated, Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is meant to celebrate them all!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day was the brainchild of a couple of guys from Vancouver, Canada, who decided to use the idea of ugly sweaters as an opportunity to raise money for the cancer treatment that a friend needed. Since that time, the idea of ugly sweater parties and Ugly Christmas Sweater Day has been embraced in a variety of contexts and has created many donations for many different charitable causes.

Officially proclaimed in 2012 by the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, this annual celebration is not simply an excuse to parade humiliatingly-unfashionable seasonal knitwear featuring Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman; it can also be a light-hearted and enjoyable fundraising event.

How to Celebrate National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

So, for those who want to celebrate National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, dig into that wardrobe and organize a day among friends and co-workers to assault the eyes of everyone around with the garish and uncomfortable designs of Christmas Sweaters! Looking for ideas for some of the best ways to enjoy and celebrate Ugly Christmas Sweater Day? Check out some of these fun and festive plans for the day:

Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater

Of course, the business of the day is all about wearing the ugliest possible sweater or jumper possible on Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Grab one out of grandpa’s closet, find it in the bottom of a trunk of old clothes or borrow one from a friend. Wherever it comes from, wearing an ugly holiday sweater is the most important part of celebrating this day. And don’t forget to remind friends and coworkers in advance so that they can celebrate the day too!

Make Ugly Christmas Sweater Day Cookies

Sugar cookies are delicious and fun to decorate – especially when you can secure a cookie cutter in the shape of a sweater. Just whip up a batch of sugar cookie dough, cut them out, bake them and then let them cool. Use some store bought frosting or make some at home and make a variety of colors. The most fun part about it is that they can be decorated in all sorts of silly and ridiculous ways in honor of Ugly Christmas Sweater Day!

Decorate a Custom Ugly Christmas Sweater

One of the best ways to enjoy Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and to win an Ugly Christmas Sweater Day Contest is by making sure there are no other sweaters in the world exactly like yours! Pick out a marginally ugly sweater and then make it even uglier by adding tacky, hideous, and horrid items to it.

Choose an Ugly Christmas Sweater Day theme like one of these:

  • Tinseltown. One of the most fun and glitzy ways to decorate an ugly sweater is to cover it in shiny tinsel, whether glued or sewn on. Just for fun, add a giant red stocking to the back.
  • Christmas Tree Theme. Choose a green sweater for a base and then decorate it with all sorts of old Christmas baubles and ornaments.
  • Starbucks Holiday Coffee Cups. Make a splash in coffee decor by cutting a few takeaway Starbucks holiday themed cups (complete with lids) in half and gluing them all over an old sweater.
  • Ugly Mitten Sweater. Wintertime is the perfect time for Ugly Christmas Sweater Day! Make the most of it by using mismatched pairs of old gloves and sewing them on to a sweater or sweatshirt. Then add different items coming out of them, like flowers or small stuffed animals.

Buy a New (or Old!) Ugly Sweater

Some people spend the entire calendar year pounding the pavement of the thrift stores and yard sales to find the absolutely perfect ugly sweater to wear in celebration. But for those who aren’t invested as early in the year, it’s still possible to get a variety of different options in the weeks leading up to Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Check out holiday deals as they come up before Christmas, or look into sellers who might be offering options to purchase ugly sweaters in their online shops.

Of course, buying a pre-decorated sweater off the rack is also possible, beginning around October and lasting through the end of the year. Even better, picking one up on sale in January can save some money and hassle for when the season comes around again.

Host an Ugly Christmas Sweater Day Auction

One fun activity for Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is to organize an Ugly Sweater Auction. Invite everyone to wear their worst sweaters, and then other people can bid to have them take them off. It’s amazing what people will pay to stop a grisly assault on their eyes!

For the trolls in the audience, the rules can include a counterbid by people seeking to have the sweaters remain, with the hope of continuing to torment friends and co-workers for the rest of the day.

Alternatively, if a creative group of people has the skills to produce a sweater, it is always possible to organize an actual auction early in the season. People bring their own holiday designs, auction them off in a silent auction, and donate the proceeds to a charity of choice. And the winners can then sport their newly-acquired ugly items at their next holiday event. It’s a win-win!

How to Win at National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

Some folks may be wondering exactly what constitutes “ugly” when it comes to this silly day. The good news is that almost anything goes on this rollicking day that is intentionally meant to offend both good taste and common sense!

Customizing is key. For those who are creatively inspired, it’s easy to start with something basic (like a red sweatshirt) and turn it into a glorious display of festive hideousness. With a hot glue gun and some simple craft supplies, even the most boring, non-festive shirts can become an enviable work of awful (and awe-inspiring!) art.

The more outrageous, the better. Glitter and sequins can always be counted on to add that special touch. Or take it to another level with a battery-powered, light-up garment (say, Rudolph’s famous red nose) that offers a leg-up on the competition.

Accessories add class. Some ugly sweater events are judged on more than just the merits of the individual sweater. Adding a bit more pizzazz to the outfit, such as a Santa hat or Reindeer antlers, can transform a marginally ugly pullover into a dazzling display of merry-ness.

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