MOUNT DESERT — Matt Cornish has a hobby that keeps him warm and cozy all December long. He collects and wears Christmas sweaters.
“It brings me joy to be as festive as possible,” said Cornish, who works as camp director at Camp Beech Cliff. “Christmas is my absolute favorite season.”
One sweater portrays Dr. Seuss’s Christmas-stealing Grinch. Another has an elf in a baby carrier. Yet another is a red cardigan made to look like Santa’s coat, with white tufts and a black belt. A sweater called “Pride Rock” portrays the Christmas story as a scene from the movie, “The Lion King.” Some of Cornish’s favorite sweaters feature dinosaurs.
“I’ve just always loved dinosaurs,” said Cornish. “I had a childhood love of them that I never grew out of. My daughter enjoys them right now.”
In high school, Cornish said, he wanted to become a paleontologist. He still considers dinosaurs to be “a fascinating part of our natural history.”
The dinosaur Christmas sweaters include Santa riding a Stegosaurus, and the Three Wise Men portrayed by a trio of dinosaurs.
In December, he wears his sweaters daily to the cozy Camp Beech Cliff office, which only has a year-round staff of five. He also wears his sweaters around town, where he often runs into campers who recognize him.
“It’s a lot of fun when I do,” said Cornish, who is considering adding a “Christmas in July” celebration so he can show off his sweaters in the summer, when the camp is full of councilors and campers.
“They bring me joy to wear them, and I think they bring other people joy. Just seeing one of my sweaters bring a smile to someone’s face: it’s worth it.”
Cornish said one of his sweaters has even made an appearance onstage in local theater. He lent his llama sweater to Acadia Community Theater to be featured in their recent production of “Closed for the Holidays.”
The hobby had simple beginnings. A few years back, Cornish needed something to wear for a holiday party he and his wife hosted. “I like to make a splashy entrance sometimes,” he explained.
He bought his first Christmas sweater, and never looked back.
“Every time I’d see one that wasn’t ridiculously expensive, I’d grab it,” Cornish said.
The sweater collection is not stored in the basement with the other Christmas decorations. Instead, sweaters are carefully folded and stowed in the closet in a “big Rubbermaid bin. And I’m going to need a second one,” he said, as if thinking aloud.
“I don’t consider my sweaters to be ‘ugly,’” he noted, distancing himself from the “ugly Christmas sweater” trend that has exploded in recent years.
However, that trend has made it easy for Cornish to find sweaters for his collection. “You can easily find sweaters online or even at Walmart,” Cornish said. Thanks to two new additions this year, his collection is up to 19.
Cornish said he aims to collect enough sweaters that he can wear one each day from Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to Christmas, all twelve days of it.
“Sort of a sweater advent calendar,” he explained. “I’m more than halfway there.”