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Born in Canada: The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

It’s hard to say who invented the garment affectionately known as the Ugly Christmas Sweater. Moms, school teachers and Bill Cosby have been sporting festive knitwear for decades. But when did Christmas Sweaters as a fashion choice make the jump from sincere to ironic?

You might be surprised to learn that the worldwide phenomenon began with two friends from Vancouver, Canada. Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch claim to have invented the concept of an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party back in 2002, when they held their first-annual tongue-in-cheek holiday party in their living room for a handful of their pals.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Guests
Ugly Christmas Sweater party guests at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom.

The pair enlisted another friend, Scott Lindsay, to help plan the ultimate Christmas party, complete with candy canes, eggnog, Christmas carols, decorations and – you guessed it – tacky holiday sweaters!

By 2005, the party had outgrown their Coquitlam B.C. living room and was moved to a larger venue, attracting more than 400 people. Finally, in 2006 the celebration made its final move to Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. It has remained there ever since, becoming an annual tradition for sell-out crowds. In fact, the original Ugly Sweater Party is widely considered the city’s hottest holiday event.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Founders
Chris Boyd (left) and Jordan Birch (right) in a 2012 photo by Metro News.

Best of all, the Party and spin-off initiatives have raised a ton of money for non-profit organizations such as The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. Birch and Boyd are proud of their legacy and what worldwide phenomenon they helped create.  They promote the motto: Be Ugly. Do Good. Connect. Give. Reconnect and Be Kind.

The ugly friends have even launched a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (the Friday before Christmas) and an Ugly Sweater 5K/10K run in both Vancouver and Toronto.

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