In the middle of this wonderful summer heatwave we are experiencing, I’ve been doing a little bit of Christmas preparation. No, you didn’t read that incorrectly at all. I’ve eaten mince pies, tasted Christmas coffee blends and thoughtfully appraised fully decked out Christmas trees. Welcome to Christmas in July, the weird alternative PR universe that happens at the beginning of July when Christmas arrives on days that are over 28 degrees and the sun shines long into the evening. With traditional print media running their calendars so far in advance it means that the Christmas editions of magazines are “put to bed” by the end of August, beginning of September. Across the country right now stylists are sourcing Christmas trees, decorations and wrapping fake presents to create wonderfully festive stories to hit the newsstand in November. For writers and market editors, there are gift lists to compile and samples to be called in and photographed, so that those essential gift guides can tell us about the must-have gifts we need to source for our nearest, dearest and everyone else.
So what will be in my Christmas gift ideas for interior lovers? What decorating and entertaining ideas will I be sharing? Will there be ideas for the kitchen, bedroom and beyond? I attended three Christmas in July press events to see what will be hitting the stores in time for Christmas.
Limited edition rose gold four slice toaster, anyone? Doesn’t need to be Christmas in July to appreciate this beautiful new finish from Dualit. First up John Lewis, where the in-house design team has put together seven striking, multi-sensory Christmas collections. Colours included the festive Ruby, Gold, and Emerald, but the Amber, Moonstone, Jet and Rainbow collections were getting quite a lot of attention. John Lewis is predicting that the “Rainbow” story will be a big hit as it reflects the trends they have seen in social media and how people like to share colourful images.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without tucking into an oversized tin of chocolates. So something I know plenty of people will be excited about is that John Lewis is collaborating with Quality Street to launch a Quality Street Pick ‘n’ Mix. From September, when the John Lewis Christmas shop opens to the public, there will be an exclusive personalisation station, giving customers the chance to personalise the street name on their tin as well as choose their favourite flavours. Dislike Strawberry Delight? You can leave it out. Love the Green Triangle, the Toffee Penny or maybe the Caramel Swirl? Well, you can fill your tin to the brim for £12, with a minimum four flavours.
Non-traditional Christmas decoration motifs appear to be on the rise, and I am a big fan. I can’t wait to get my hands on an astronaut, a UFO, a rainbow and an Egyptian mummy (From John Lewis). Over at Flying Tiger I spotted hamburgers, dinosaurs and camper vans. And I fell for the llamas by Talking Tables seen at the Portrait Communications Christmas showcase. One thing I can guarantee though is that there will still be plenty of Gin on the Christmas lists – whether it’s made from Pixie Tears, Collagin (the youthful spirit, get it?) or a special Christmas blend. Everyone from Berry Brothers & Rudd, The Gin Foundry to John Lewis had ample gift ideas based around the spirit. Maybe you’d like to try Gin and Tonic dark chocolate by Love Cocoa for example. My top tip having spoken to those in the know at The Gin Foundry, is to look for interesting pairings with tonics and garnishes. Ever thought of Gin and Ginger for example? It’s a revelation. If you’re looking for a Gin alternative I tried the Kings Ginger a liqueur by Berry Brothers & Rudd – it was deliciously warming, even when it’s Christmas in July.
Another story that will be everywhere but with renewed vigour this Christmas will be the perennial favourite The Snowman. Did you know the book is 40 years old this year? First published in 1978 the entirely wordless book is illustrated in pencil. To coincide with its 40th anniversary, author Michael Morpurgo has created a new story inspired by the original tale which will be released in October. I read the advanced copy I was given at the weekend, and it’s definitely a gift I will be giving this Christmas, to practically everyone I know. I might just add it to the wonderful The Snowman biscuit tin by the Biscuiteers, the perfect pairing.
Over at the Christmas in July press festival (!) I was rather bowled over by the environmentally and ethically conscious gifting being showcased at Oxfam, Fairtrade and the National Trust. At a time of year when conspicuous giving is at its very peak, gifts that have provenance, help a wider community or support local producers seem an apt way of giving back – even in a very small way. The Oxfam Sourced collection works with individual makers and cooperatives and includes wonderful seagrass baskets and recycled Sari throws. Over 4,500 products have been licensed to carry the Fairtrade mark, purchasing these products transforms the lives and futures of more than 1.6 million farmers and workers in developing countries. It’s also worth pointing out that it’s more than just bananas and chocolate. The Fairtrade mark has been given to clothing, jewellery and even vodka.
My other tip is experiences over stuff, like an annual Art Fund_ experience. National Art Pass gives free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. It’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.
Is the Christmas spirit coursing up your spine? If you’d like to know more about Christmas in July or have some products you think I should know about, leave a comment below. Want to see my choices for last Christmas? Take a look here.
All Christmas in July images by Mary Middleton for Hello Peagreen except no. 2 and 5 (from top) from John Lewis.