Christmas jumpers: from naff knit to essential festive kit

You better watch out, you better not cry - it’s time for the annual onslaught of novelty festive knitwear.

Stroll along any Northern Ireland high street at this time of the year and you’ll find yourself amid a sea of jolly snowmen with sticky-out carrot noses, jaunty penguins, red-nosed reindeers. Christmas puddings and sparkly Santas.

The cast of Derry Girls have swapped their school uniforms for Christmas jumpers in aid of Save the Children

The cast of Derry Girls have swapped their school uniforms for Christmas jumpers in aid of Save the Children

Yes, Christmas jumpers are back, spanning the taste spectrum from epically naff, to just-about-acceptable.

Just like Secret Santa, enforced jollity with colleagues at the office Christmas party and too much eggnog, the Christmas jumper has become a tradition for many.

But where did it all begin? Perhaps we should lay the blame with silky-voiced bygone crooners Bing Crosby and Val Doonigan, both of whom were purveyors of the pullover, and were known to ramp up their festive fashion with a jolly jumper.

Here in Northern Ireland, a thick-knitted, unbearably scratchy Christmas jumper was something many of us received from a well meaning, but misguided aunt.

In the 1980s we watched corny American films with wholesome families gathered around the Christmas tree wearing their cosy Christmas sweaters.

Then one cropped up in the cult film Bridget Jones, when Mark Darcy wore his to Geoffrey and Una’s turkey curry buffet and suddenly they were in every shop and on the backs of all our colleagues, celebrities, fashionistas and even politicians - Michael Portillo wearing his is something that can’t ever be unseen or unremembered.

A Christmas jumper is something we wouldn’t be seen dead in the rest of the year. That, of course, is the point. Its bad taste represents the pulling on of our festive persona.

Flashy, festive jumpers may be a daft bit of fun, but there’s no denying the impact the phenomenon has had on raising money for charity.

Embargoed to 0001 Friday December 8''Undated handout photo issued by Save the Children of Great Dane Huxley in his Christmas jumper, photographed by Tim Flach for the Save the Children charity, to celebrate this year's Christmas Jumper day on Friday December 15. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 8, 2017. Photo credit should read: Tim Flach/PA Wire''NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Embargoed to 0001 Friday December 8''Undated handout photo issued by Save the Children of Great Dane Huxley in his Christmas jumper, photographed by Tim Flach for the Save the Children charity, to celebrate this year's Christmas Jumper day on Friday December 15. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 8, 2017. Photo credit should read: Tim Flach/PA Wire''NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Christmas Jumper Day is an annual fundraising campaign in the UK first organised by charity Save the Children.

On a specific Friday in December, people are encouraged to make the world better with a sweater and raise funds for Save the Children by wearing a Christmas jumper and making a donation.

Those taking part can wear a Christmas jumper they already own, decorate an existing jumper with festive decorations, or even knit their own. Christmas Jumper Day is popular with schools and workplaces.

Groups may take part in additional fundraising activities on the day, as well as making donations.

And this year, the nation’s favourite school goers, the Derry Girls, mark the return of Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day to Northern Ireland

Taking place on Friday, December 14, schools, workplaces, sports teams, nurseries, universities and households in their thousands have signed up across Northern Ireland.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell who is well known for playing Michelle in the award-winning series said: “We are delighted to get involved in this year’s campaign and pull on our Christmas jumpers for a good cause.

‘‘It’s so easy to get swept up in the Christmas party season and this fundraiser is a great way to enjoy the parties and at the same time raise money for a local charity.”

From knits festooned in jingling bells to jumpers covered in lights, shiny neon tinsel and technicoloured baubles, Save the Children is expecting over 5 million people across the UK to take part in the biggest, silliest Christmas Jumper Day ever.

Whether it’s with Christmassy colleagues, sparkly school friends or just you and your merry mates, by sticking on a fabulously festive knit, signing up and donating £2 to Save the Children (£1 if you’re at school) at christmasjumperday.org, you will be helping give children hope for a better future.

And, it’s not just Save the Children. A wealth of other charities will be holding their own Christmas Jumper Day.

But, just a word of caution, instead of throwing away our festive apparel each year, we should rewear it - and help curb fast fashion which is having a devastating impact on the environment.

So however you wear yours, be it accessorised with a smile or a scowl, for those with bah-humbug tendencies, remember a Christmas jumper is for life, not just for Christmas.