“Christmas Jammies” Creator Penn Holderness ’96 On What It’s Like to Go Viral

The “Christmas Jammies” video put together by 1996 College of Arts & Sciences grad Penn Holderness and his family has been viewed more than 12 million times this week, so you may have seen it by now:

Holderness and family have done national media appearances about the video, and the philosophy graduate is also about to leave his job as a news anchor in Raleigh, N.C., to work with his wife at Greenroom Communications.

Penn agreed to answer a few questions via email and talked about what the experience has been like, how they put the video together, and the best route to take to Scott Stadium for a football game.

Q: What inspired your family to do the video?

A: We did it last year as well! It was the same basic thing: we sang a song in our front yard and told everyone about the fam. That one was inspired by two things:
1) Our kids would not sit still for a picture and
2) It was the week of Newtown. Kim and I had a kindergartener and were super depressed. The video helped get us out of the funk. Our friends loved the video and requested another one. Because we knew I was quitting my anchor job to make our own video company, we kind of tried to make it better, and hopefully more shareable, because we wanted to do that as a business.

Q: How long did it take to put all that together?

A: About a week working here and there. The front yard shoot about an hour, the shot in front of the Christmas tree about 15 minutes. The shots around town took a couple hours. We had to do it in stints because we didn’t want to burn out my kids. It took me about two hours to write the song, but most of the work was editing – maybe six hours for that.

Q: What’s it been like to have it go viral, do national media appearances, etc.?

A: Bizarre. We’ve gotten calls from basically everyone about doing an interview. My wife handled all those because she is way prettier and more interesting, and I still have a day job until January 3rd. It’s been 99 percent good: new opportunities, great way to reconnect with old friends (and alma maters!!). We’ve gotten some crazy calls for work already. Today a skydiving company in Vegas calls, they want to make a video, stuff like that. Also four production companies want us to do a reality show. Not sure about that one but who knows?

Q: What was your favorite thing about your time at U.Va.?

A: It’s so lame but I’ve gotta say football games. We always took the most circuitous route to Scott: through the Lawn, past a bar, through like five strangers’ tailgates. It was such a great way to meet people. I am a huge extrovert so those games were amazing for me. I studied at U.Va. (some not much), but more than anything it helped me meet extraordinary people.

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