July 25, 2012 by Deborah W. Trotter
“Oh, we’ll spend Yuletide, down by the poolside
This year let’s have Christmas in July.”
(BRAVE COMBO, Hernandez/Barnes)
I don’t know whether any of you are familiar with the song above, but if you changed “poolside” to lakeside, and “This year” to each year, you’d have an idea of what happens at Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park, Montana, every summer. Unless you have visited there around July 25th, you probably haven’t heard of this annual tradition, and no one really seems to know how it came to be.
Back in 1997, I stayed at the Lodge with my husband and four young children, and after an exhilarating July 24th spent driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road and taking several short hikes around Logan Pass and Saint Mary Lake to savor the Park’s beauty, we returned to the Lodge to find the staff decorating the lobby for Christmas. Hunh?
Explanatory flyers told of a major summer blizzard sometime around 1944 in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, that closed roads and stranded park visitors and employees. To make the best of a nasty situation, they all decided to pretend it was Christmas, and a National Park tradition was born.
It makes a great story, but the explanation turns out not to have historical support in either weather records or any firsthand accounts, according to those who have delved into the tradition’s genesis. But no matter. A tradition is a tradition, even if no one can articulate how it came to be!
This year, as usual, it’s Christmas in July at Lake McDonald Lodge. You’ll also find Yuletide cheer at Rising Sun Lodge, the Glacier Park Lodge, and The Prince of Wales Hotel to the north in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.