Ugly Sweater Parties are a relatively recent celebration fueled by social media that started to sweep the United States around the 2010s. National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day officially takes place on the third Friday in December, and in 2021 that means you can celebrate on December 17! However, we believe this fun little holiday can be celebrated on any day – and in any way – that you’d like!

What is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day?

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, or as it’s also known more commonly and simply, Ugly Sweater Day, is a fun holiday-inspired occasion where people of all ages wear old, unstylish sweaters (or retro-inspired new sweaters) in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. The day is meant to be an informal, humorous, and fun alternative way to celebrate the holiday season and isn’t confined just to those who celebrate Christmas. There are plenty of ugly Hanukkah sweaters, ugly Kwanzaa sweaters, and ugly winter sweaters you can buy from major department stores, specialty sellers, or crafter sites like Etsy. In fact, most ugly sweater designs don’t have much to do with Christmas at all – some even have dragons, classic cartoon characters, or motorcycling Santas.

You can wear your ugly sweater for laughs at work, to family events, or throw a seasonal celebration of your own. Ugly sweater parties have been embraced in a big way (especially by Millennials) as a more casual alternative to the formal holiday parties of the past. Ugly sweater parties are known for being extremely casual and are much more about having fun with friends and making each other laugh than the sometimes stuffy, traditional parties of the past.

Ugly Christmas sweater laid out on white background

When Did the Ugly Sweater Tradition Start?

Well, that all depends on what you mean by the word ‘start.’ Ugly sweaters as we view them today really weren’t considered ugly at all back in the day. In the 1950s, ‘Jingle Bell Sweaters’ were sold in mail-order magazines and major stores like Macy’s. These modest, long-sleeved sweaters were meant to be adorable or even fashionable celebrations of the winter season and often featured reindeers, snowflakes, and a lot of the classic scenes and motifs we see in holiday sweaters (ugly or not) today.

In the late 1980s, holiday-themed comedies started to show Christmas attire and seasonal sweaters in a humorous light. Movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and television shows like Saturday Night Live amped up familiar and classic designs until they were over the top and garish – think ill-fitting vests with real jingling bells, silly cartoon Rudolph faces with puffball red noses, and loud red and green patterns. Social media really helped the Ugly Sweater holiday catch on when people of all ages started posting photos of themselves in their silly thrift shop finds – and the rest is history!

How to Celebrate National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day?

You can celebrate National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day in a multitude of ways big and small. One fun idea that has seen some virality across popular sharing sites like Reddit and Imgur involves friends, roommates, or family members all wearing matching ugly Christmas sweaters and going to a professional photographer to capture the silly moment. These photos are usually printed out as ironic holiday cards and sent out to acquaintances and, of course, shared on social media.

Group of friends wearing ugly Christmas sweaters

Another way to celebrate this offbeat holiday is to throw a themed ugly sweater party. These parties are typically in November or December and are a more easygoing alternative to the traditional, dressy, and classic holiday parties you may have grown up with. When planning your party, make sure to let everyone know that they should wear their ugliest sweater, even offer a prize to ensure some friendly competition!

If your invitees need to know where to find an ugly Christmas sweater of their own, refer them to thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army or secondhand sites like Poshmark and eBay. You might even have some luck raiding the closet, attic, or basement of your parents or older relatives. Family members with a sense of humor will likely love to see their old, out-of-style holiday clothes get a funny and fresh new life for a party.

Celebrate the Entire Holiday Season with ProFlowers

Don’t forget: if you’re looking for festive floral centerpieces or delicious treats to serve for your ugly sweater party or for National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, look no further than ProFlowers. ProFlowers has an amazing array of seasonal snacks, cookies, gift baskets, and more to make any holiday party an event to remember. Happy holidays!