The holiday season has arrived and brought with it glowing lights, wreath-adorned doors and Christmas music playing on repeat in every shop. If you listen closely, though, in the evening quiet, you may hear another sound. Bells attached to a red and green applique-covered festive atrocity jingle as someone gets dressed for a very special event: The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

These parties are the antithesis of a classic, demure Christmas gathering. They are filled with sweaters that scream and shout in pom poms and glitter, with sleighs, Santas and snowflakes popping off the fabric; sweaters so loud they drown out the chatter of giggly guests delighting in each other’s outfits. “Everyone has that relative that wears the sweaters unironically,” says Kate McPherson. “[It] makes me think of the year my entire family dressed up in identical sweaters – from my great-grandmother to infants.”

Those sweaters of our past were not destroyed; they were donated. Now they are so abundant in thrift stores, one needn’t search too hard to find a perfectly imperfect sweater for the season. “It's fun to see how tacky everyone can get,” says McPherson. “It's definitely more fun when people find sweaters that have actually been sold in stores seriously as opposed to making one.”

Cherokee Lowe says she went all out at her first Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. “I found a plaid jumper with a snowman embroidered on the chest, a red snowman turtleneck, red Christmas socks, red shoes and I put one of those huge red Christmas bows in my hair,” she recalls. “I even had Christmas balls as earrings!”

Her thrifting efforts paid off. She took home top prize in the Ugly Sweater Contest that night. “It was so fun that we got bit by the bug and now have a Tacky Christmas Party every year,” she says.

The trend has even inspired the Army Aviation Association to sponsor the Ugly Christmas Sweater 5k in Tulsa on Dec. 7. Runners will be decked out in a Christmas sweater-themed race shirt, and there will be a Christmas sweater contest, including categories for most creative and ugliest.

Any Ugly Christmas Sweater event you attend is sure to be filled with laughter and cheer. “This is such a fun part of the holiday season because I think it provides some levity,” says Lowe. “Everyone seems so tightly wound around Christmas, and the Tacky Christmas Party is a fun way to blow off some steam so you can really appreciate the holiday season again.”

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