"We're doing Christmas in July this year"

After the pandemic cancelled this family’s traditional Christmas gathering, they made up for it in 2021 with a ‘really, really special’ new tradition. Artifact helped them record the story of their family and its traditions, both new and old.

"We're doing Christmas in July this year"

In so many interviews over the past year and a half, someone has said some version of “...and we’ve done that every year, until 2020 of course.”

Something caught my ear, however, in a May 2021 interview: the idea of making up for missed traditions as vaccines became more widely available and families were able to gather safely once again.

It started out straightforward enough, as Jon S., recording an Artifact about his parents, said that Christmas with a prime rib cooked over an old spit was always one of his favorite traditions.

“For our family, the prime rib was a big deal at Christmas,” he said. “I get an email or a phone call like a week before. ‘I ordered the prime rib, got a big one this year!’ and I get excited.”

“My parents have this old-school rotisserie that they no longer make because, I mean, this is so dangerous,” he continues. “Just imagine an exposed electrical coil that this little rotisserie spins over. It was given to them as a wedding gift in 1969 and they trot this thing out every Christmas. And that motor sounds like it's on its last leg. I mean, the thing is as old as their marriage, so this thing is 52 years old. I'm surprised it still works."

Jon mentioned that since his family hadn’t been able to get together for Christmas in 2020, there were plans in the works for a make-up celebration in 2021.

“We're doing Christmas in July this year. And there was some talk of, like, do we bring up the rotisserie? And then it's like, well, since it's July and it's not minus-20 in Wisconsin in December, why don't we just put some rib-eyes on the grill in lieu of the prime rib?”

A couple months later, after hearing the Artifact and convening for Christmas in July, Jon said the new tradition had been a success.

“It was very heartwarming,” he said. “I think being from such a large family — so there’s six kids and then everyone has a spouse, and then my parents and then 16 nieces and nephews, some of them old enough to have their own significant others — it was sort of unique that everyone came home. That’s not an easy thing to do with 30-plus people to a not-so-easy to get to place in Central Wisconsin.”

When Christmas in July came around, Jon said “the universe cooperated to make for a great event” with perfect Midwestern weather of sunshine and no humidity.

“If anything, it was probably the most over-the-top Christmas celebration we’ve had,” Jon said. “My parents built a tiki bar, really leaning into the Santa-in-Hawaii theme. So there were inflatable palm trees, there was a tiki bar … Frosty and Santa by the sliding patio door. It was over the top and, I think, really, really special.”

The family's Wisconsin home, decorated for an outdoor Christmas in July celebration.

The Artifact was a success as well. Jon and his six siblings each recorded an episode as a surprise gift for their parents, who were also interviewed together about how they met and raised the family.

“It was very, very interesting, no one really collaborated in terms of what they were going to say to the interviewer from Artifact,” he said. “So it was very, very unique to listen to the episodes come out after the fact, to hear the same story from 20 or 30 years ago told from two or three different points of view, and how much — even though I’m one of six kids and we live all across the country now — so many of those things tracked and lined up 20, 30, 40 years later.”

If your family is getting together to make up for some favorite tradition you missed last year, looking ahead to this year's holiday traditions, or you just want to capture some important family history, head to heyartifact.com to get started.