Whether you’re cozied up in upstate New York or soaking up the sun in Southern California, it’s hard to escape the holiday season without putting on some kind of sweater.
But on the third Friday of every December, you might have to dig a little deeper in your closet to find the best (or worst) outfit for this year’s National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.
It’s December 20, 2020, if you’re wondering.
Fortunately, if you don’t have something picked out, we’ve got plenty of tips to help you be the ugliest of the bunch.
Whether you’re headed to your first Ugly Christmas Sweater party or looking for inspiration to beat last year’s looks, here is a quick guide to what this holiday is all about and how you can dress your best.
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What is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day?
In the past decade, ugly Christmas sweaters have gone from a silly concept to a full-blown cross-country celebration. So what makes a Christmas sweater ugly? Pure excess. Popular garments typically feature overly cute or ostentatious holiday designs—think penguins snuggled in scarves, ice-skating snowmen, embroidered poinsettias, and glitter letters that spell “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Over the years people have stepped up the style by adding in garlands, bells, bows, and even functional Christmas lights.
Technically, these displeasing pullovers can be worn anytime during the season—in the office, in the classroom, at parties. Eventually, die-hard fans of this expanding tradition decided to put a date to it, launching first National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day in 2011.
As the holiday gained steam, the Save the Children organization aligned with the festivities and started the “Make the World Better with a Sweater” campaign in 2014. Through the campaign, Save the Children puts a spotlight on their efforts to help kids all over the globe gain access to the resources they need to lead healthy, thriving lives. By wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, you can help raise awareness of their cause—or take it the next level by pledging $5 to Save the Children. It’s truly a way to add good to the ugly!
For those of you who are into fitness, there is even an annual Ugly Sweater Run dubbed as the “Merriest 5K of the Year!
Where to Find the Best Ugly Christmas Sweaters
If you’re scrambling to secure the very “best” ugly sweater for this special occasion, there are no shortage of options on where to find unique pullovers. Although the funniest options may come from your own closet (i.e. Christmas Season, 1985), you might also want to try:
Secondhand stores were born to help people find the best ugly Christmas sweaters. With an ever-changing rotation of previously-owned garments, thrift shops tend to have interesting and unusual selections that can help you stand out in the crowd. Thrifting can also make the most sense for keeping holiday spending to a minimum, as you can usually pick up a superb sweater for under $10.
If you’re looking for something specific, the Internet is the next best place to go. For vintage and one-of-a-kind looks, give Etsy and Amazon a try. Thanks to the ever-growing list of third-party sellers, Amazon has also become a top resource for finding the most diverse selection of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Or, if you’re in the market for top-of-the-line craftsmanship and comfort, you might try a specialty online store such as TipsyElves that literally specializes in holiday sweaters and apparel. Keep in mind that holiday shipping times can vary, so if you need your sweater for a special date, make sure to order early or upgrade to premium shipping.
When the thrift stores have been picked over and you’re crunched for time, you can still find a wide range of options at popular big box retailers. For example, Target, Kohl’s, and Walmart all offer a variety of ugly Christmas sweaters for men, women, and children. Since these items are typically available in mass quantities, department stores may also be the ideal place to shop if you need matching Christmas sweaters for your family, friend group, or coworkers.
DIY Ugly Sweaters
If you want to make sure that there is absolutely no way another person will be wearing the same thing as you at an Ugly Christmas Sweater party, getting crafty can be a fun way to customize your clothing. For example, if you’re thinking ahead for next year, you might pick up a pair of knitting needles and your favorite pattern book to stitch up a top of your own. You can also try adding some flair to an existing sweater by sewing on sequins or embroidering festive imagery onto the fabric. If you make a mistake—no one will be the wiser, as flaws are what make this celebration unique.
How to Celebrate Your Own Ugly Christmas Sweater Day
As with most holiday traditions, ugly Christmas sweater-wearing is best done with those you have the most fun with. Whether you want to put together something for the official National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day or throw your own event, here are a few top ways to gather others and their garish garments.
Organize an Office Party
Turning your Casual Friday into an Ugly Christmas Sweater party can be a great way to get your staff pumped for the holidays and celebrate a year of hard work. If you want to make sure to get everyone involved, consider offering a small prize to the best dressed. Or, if you want to spread good cheer, you might donate $5 to Save the Children for every employee that participates. You might also think about setting up a company photo booth so coworkers can take silly pictures during an office party. Sharing the photos with the hashtag #Elfie can be a great way to give your brand a boost on social media.
Put Together a Potluck & Party Games
When gather your friends and family for a fun social event, encouraging guests to wear ugly Christmas sweaters makes an excellent icebreaker. To make party planning easier, have guests bring their own favorite dishes for a traditional potluck—just be sure not to drip any savory snacks on your apparel!
You might add to the fun by organizing a white elephant gift exchange. While there are many ways to set up a white elephant exchange, the general rules are pretty easy. To put it together, have every guest bring an XL sweater (to make fitting easier for everyone) and put them in a pile. Next, assign every participant a turn order and have the first person select a sweater to open from the pile. The next person has the option to select a wrapped garment or steal a previously-opened sweater from another player. At the end, everyone gets stuck with something silly and has something festive to wear for the rest of the party.
If you want to skip the hectic scene of a white elephant gift exchange, you might instead opt for Secret Santa: Ugly Christmas Sweater Edition. Essentially, every guest will put their sweater size on a list and receive another random name to shop for within a certain budget. Once everyone has arrived and hidden their gifts under the tree, your guests can open their surprises and put them on for the rest of the party. To add some mystery into the mix, you can keep the givers hidden and encourage partygoers to figure out who picked their sweater out.
Celebrate with Carols
Ugly Christmas Sweater Day doesn’t have to be a big affair. In fact, it can just be something simple you celebrate with your family. If you’re looking for a family-friendly way to show off your questionable style, consider using them as caroling outfits as you and the kids go spread joy and enjoy neighborhood Christmas lights.
When the Party’s Over
Many may find that they will only wear their ugly Christmas sweater once and wonder how they can keep the garment from cluttering the closet as a relic of the past. One of the easiest things you can do with your leftover sweater is to donate it to a local charity thrift store. It’s the best way to help keep the holiday spirit alive next season and help those in need at the same time.
If you’re ready to get a head start on next year’s National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, the post-holiday season is the best time to shop. Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, you’ll likely find a variety of seasonal wear priced low during End-of-Year and After-Christmas sales.
Those are our tips for the season of ugly sweaters, but remember, there’s no limit on how much fun you can have with this holiday!
Whether you’re shopping for holiday attire or searching for the best white elephant gifts, you can streamline your Christmas shopping experience with our helpful guides at TopProducts.com. To sprinkle some savings into your holiday spirit, start your search by checking out our Fashion and Apparel reviews or browsing our Great Gift Ideas.
Brian Novak, TopProducts Staff Writer