Christmas jumpers: Once the dreaded present from gran, now people are warming to festive charity fun
Reindeer and penguins and polar bears were on the loose across Northern Ireland yesterday.
A zoo of festive folk popped up throughout the province as people pulled on their seasonal sweaters for Christmas Jumper Day.
Charities encouraged people to don a holiday jumper to raise money for good causes.
People were happy to oblige as the colourful sweaters helped protect them against the December chill. "Make the world better with a sweater," urged Save the Children for its Christmas Jumper Day campaign.
"Donate. Spread the jumper joy." The charity has been encouraging people to wear Christmas jumpers and donate £2 to help vulnerable young people for the last three years.
Schoolchildren gladly shed their uniforms to embrace the charity day.
Pupils at Sullivan Upper - alma mater of golfing hero Rory McIlroy - have participated in the charity day for the last two years. Principal Chris Peel joined the pupils, sporting a ruby red jumper with bells jingling from Rudolph's antlers. He said: "It raises the profile of Save the Children and when you can do that with a spirit of fun on a non-uniform day and wearing the Christmas jumpers, then obviously everybody buys into it and we're delighted to support charity in that way."
He marvelled at some of the festive jumpers which sport flashing lights, like that of pupil James Wright (14), whose jumper reindeer and Santa sleigh twinkled at the flick of a switch.
"You go into shops and they are selling masses of Christmas jumpers. They used to be seen as unfashionable, yet now it's almost a fashion statement. Everybody is wearing them," he said.
Children's voices singing "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas..." floated down the hall of Blythefield Primary School as they skipped back inside after lunch - their noses as red as Rudolph's.
This is the first year the school has taken part in the charity day.
Jumper bunting hangs made by pupils hung in the assembly hall, which was used by teachers to help the students understand the charity angle of the day, Principal Catherine Roulston explained.
Atlanta Gorman (11), whose Mrs Claus jumper was a present from her gran, recommended that "everyone should buy a Christmas jumper. They're so nice and fluffy".
"And people should give money to charity!" added Toni Nellis, whose snowman had a crochet carrot for a nose.
Father Christmas wedged into a chimney, an elf and a Christmas pudding were just some of the scenes decorating the colourful jumpers keeping pupils at Holywood Primary warm.
Mother Susan Shannon decided to keep her son Max (10) company: "It's great for morale in-school. I had Christmas music playing from the day before Halloween this year! I love it."
All 420 of the school's pupils and its teachers took part in Christmas Jumper Day this year.
"It creates a nice festive atmosphere at the school; there's a buzz about the place," said principal Debbie Crookshanks.
The charity Clic Sargent, which seeks to ease the burden of childhood cancer on children, was also hosting a series of Christmas Jumper Day events across the Northern Ireland yesterday.
So, just why are these natty knits so popular?
Cameron Mack (19), Queen’s University student
“I’m wearing this because I want to embrace the festive spirit! And it’s keeping warm in this cold weather. My brother bought it a couple of years ago, and now I’ve inherited it. So it’s the family spirit jumper.”
Louise Gregg (26), civil servant
“We are wearing our jumpers for the charity day, which we saw advertised on TV, and for coming to the Christmas fair today. My nan (69) knits them, so this is the one she gave me last year. She knitted my sister one last week in four days. I will be wearing mine lots before Christmas.”
Arthur Thompson (61), research centre manager
“Twenty-four of my friends went to the Christmas market today and we said we would all do the Christmas jumper thing, but only one other guy and I came with a jumper on. My partner bought it for me. It saved me buying a shirt! I’ve only just worn it today. I’ll definitely not be wearing it again — it’s a one-day jumper!”
Julie Johnston (25), civil servant
“It really has started building up these last few years with Christmas jumpers —they have become a big thing. Before, we wouldn’t have seen them much. When we were children it wasn’t as big — you could get kids’ Christmas jumpers, but it’s only the last couple of years that adults have really started wearing them.”
Catherine Ogden (22), singer, from Preston
“We came over to Belfast for a holiday. It’s Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day, so I’ve paid my pound and worn my jumper today. I’m absolutely feeling the Christmas spirit. It’s beautiful in Belfast, so Christmassy. I would mostly wear the jumper for a charity thing, for it’s a good cause. The uglier the jumper, the better normally! I’ve got quite a stack of them.”
Helen Keown (55), civil servant
“It’s Christmas Jumper Day for charity, so we thought we’d just join in to the craic. We did give money to charity at work but it’s also for the seasonal fun. It’s our Christmas day out! I’ll wear the jumper on Christmas morning too, for my grandchildren — to show granny getting involved.”
Seamus Close (26), service engineer
“It’s Christmas! I only bought it this year — I’m embracing the Christmas jumper just because everyone else seems to be doing it. Last year it was suggested but I thought this year I’d just go for it.”
Louise McIlhatton (25), shop assistant
“I’ve worn mine at work for the last two years. It feels great putting a festive jumper on.”
Janine McAllister (42), civil servant
“We’re on our wee day out. I actually have another jumper in my bag — I’ve got three — one with a reindeer, one with a Christmas tree, and this one. I’ve only been wearing them since last year; I think it is an American tradition which has just taken off since last year.”