Jenolan Caves

How did Christmas in July (Yulefest) Get Started?

June 22, 2021

Caves House winter 2019

Christmas feast, warm fire, Santa, Christmas tree, tinsel and that cosy, fun feeling of Christmas!  In many parts of the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas in July has become a fun way to bring old world warmth and whimsy to the dull and chill days of Winter.   Therefore, you may be surprised to hear that 'Christmas in July' is not unheard of in the Northern Hemisphere also - in Summer. How did 'Christmas in July' ('Yulefest') start?

Who Started It?

The first mention of the phrase, 'Christmas in July' is found in Werther, an 1892 French opera. In the opera, a group of children rehearse a Christmas song in July, to which a character responds: “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.”[i]

Keystone Camp, in Brevard, North Carolina, USA claims credit for the first actual 'Christmas in July' celebration, in 1933.  According to their tradition, their camp’s founder had a penchant for whimsy and started Christmas in July as an imaginative part of their summer program.[ii]

Other say that 'Christmas in July' began at a Baptist church in Philadelphia, to gather gifts early enough in the year to ensure they had enough time to distribute to their global missions.[iii]

In 1940, Christmas in July was the title of an American comedy film. The movie had nothing to do with Christmas, but the main characters went on a wild shopping spree in July because they mistakenly thought they has won a massive money prize. This popular movie brought the term ‘Christmas in July’ into the American vernacular. So much so that the U.S. Post Office used it in a promotional campaign during 1944 and 1945 to encourage people to send early Christmas cards and gifts to soldiers and sailors serving on the front during World War II.[iv]

How Yulefest Came to the Blue Mountains

In Australia, Christmas in July is believed to have started in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, at the Mountain Heritage hotel, where it was dubbed ‘Yulefest’.  In 1980, a group of Irish tourists were enjoying the cold of the Blue Mountains in July. While staying in the Mountain Heritage hotel, the falling snow reminded them of Christmas in the northern hemisphere.  “Celebrating Christmas in Australia during the heat of summer just doesn’t feel quite the same”, they said to their host.  So to please his Irish guests, their host decided to provide them with a traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas feast. Decorations were hung throughout the hotel. Even a Christmas tree was found and trimmed. Word began to spread of this unusual event, and enquiries from other interested parties began flowing in. This idea was so popular that other businesses in the Blue Mountains started offering ‘Christmas in July’ products and services. Within a few years, the celebration of 'Yulefest' had well and truly been adopted throughout the Blue Mountains.[v]

The word 'Yulefest' comes from 'Yuletide', an old word for Christmas. 

Yulefest - a Jenolan Tradition for 30 Years

When you think about it, why should Christmas be limited to only once a year?  At historic Jenolan Caves House, we serve the traditional Christmas lunch on Christmas Day, and then half way through the year we celebrate Yulefest, and have done so every year since 1992[vi]

This year, you can enjoy 'Yulefest' on any Friday or Saturday evening in July.  Upstairs, in Chisolm’s Restaurant, you can sit down to the festive Yulefest feast, always including turkey and ham, a huge Christmas tree, decorations and, of course, Santa Claus for your kids.  Click here to find out exactly what Jenolan is offering for Yulefest this year.

'Yulefest' is a heart-warming way to connect with your family and friends and create lifelong memories. Feel the Christmas spirit. Make Jenolan Yulefest part of your family’s traditions.

4 Comments (Reply)
Ed Burton (Reply)
We attended Yulefest on 4/7/2020 with our 3 & 5 year old grand children. It was superb! Santa came and gave them a present each and then we had ONE OF THE BEST dining experiences we have ever had! I think the "difference" was the cello and violin players but the food was "top class". OK, so we couldn't go into a cave but the "offset" was no crowds and we still went on "walks". If you have little kids (or even if you don't) I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Yulefest!
Mukul Sharma (Reply)
Dear Ed, Greetings from Jenolan Caves House! We take pride in serving our guests to the utmost and would like to thank you for your encouraging feedback. It has indeed been a privilege to have you dine with us and I was most delighted to observe that “Chisolm's Yulefest” was able to create a memorable experience for yourself and your family. I have passed your flattering feedback to the team who created and delivered on the experience. Thank you once again, stay safe and stay warm. Kind regards, Mukul Sharma
Chris Newbury (Reply)
Julias was named after Jove, which has a similar root to "Yule". In other words, July was named after the Yule/Jol feast, which was Christmas in ancient times.
Fascinating! Thanks so much for that info, Chris!
4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

Please Contact Me