Community Papers

Knitted nightmares to help build STM gym

Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch visit the new gym at St. Thomas More Collegiate, where they graduated 10 years ago. They
Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch visit the new gym at St. Thomas More Collegiate, where they graduated 10 years ago. They're donating part of the proceeds from their 11th annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party to help buy equipment for the new facility, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

You've probably got one stashed away deep in the bottom dresser drawer. Somewhere in the family photo album, there's a picture of you wearing it; you try to skip that page whenever leafing through it with visitors.

The ugly Christmas sweater is everyone's knitted nightmare.

But for the past 11 years Jordan Birch and Chris Boyd have been bringing the seasonal fashion disasters out of the closet and celebrating the worst garments ever created by two long needles and well-meaning fingers with their annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, to be held Dec. 21 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.

This year the St. Thomas More alumni will be donating some of the event's proceeds to their alma matter to help equip the school's new gym, scheduled to be completed in the spring.

It's part of their philosophy, they say, that good can still come out of something as bad as a gaudy green cardigan festooned with garish candy canes, dangling bells and rancid ribbons. Over the years they've helped out causes like Basics For Babies, the Union Gospel Mission and various food banks.

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party started as a gathering of friends in the Coquitlam home of another STM alumnus, Scott Lindsay. Evoking images of Hallmark moments so saccharin they could never happen in real life, Birch and Boyd wanted to make the occasion as cheesy as possible, complete with a punchbowl filled with eggnog, mistletoe hanging from door frames, gatherings around the piano to sing carols and, of course, ugly Christmas sweaters handed down over the years from crafty aunts and grandmothers.

"People thought it was such a great idea," says Boyd, who's now a clinical counsellor. "For some reason Christmas clothing is weird."

"It lets you get in touch with your inner humor," says Birch, a life coach. "When you get everybody together wearing ugly sweaters, you don't make fun of each other any more."

Their idea caught on. The party outgrew living rooms and kitchens and moved to the Highland Pub at Simon Fraser University and then to the Commodore where more than 1,000 revelers will be entertained by two live bands, a gospel choir, a DJ and various contests.

Over the years Birch and Boyd have fielded media inquiries from as far away as London, England. Similar events started up in places like Kansas City. This year, Dec. 21 has been designated Ugly Christmas Sweater Day around the world.

"It's a global phenomenon," says Birch. "If you've got one, wear it."

Tickets for the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party are available by following the links at christmassweaterparty.com. The site also has an online shop selling ugly Christmas sweaters rescued from garage sales, hand-me-downs and thrift stores.

 

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