'Tis the night before Vlogmas, when all through the world, YouTubers are preparing, to press record *takes deep breath* THE VLOGGING CAMERAS WERE HUNG BY THE — just kidding, I'm done, but this eager anticipation is only a slight exaggeration of the actual fervour that surrounds what's become a festive staple in the world of YouTube. Vlogmas, the tradition of vlogging every day in December until Christmas Day, enters its sixth year tomorrow, and ever since its inception in 2011, the creator of Vlogmas, beauty and lifestyle YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen, has watched it grow from a spur-of-the-moment project with her fans into a full-fledged phenomenon.
If you don't follow Ingrid Nilsen, you probably still know her from that time her coming out video that went viral in 2015. Back in 2011, however, she was better known as Missglamorazzi, or on her now-dormant vlog channel, TheGridMonster. It was there where she first asked her viewers what she should call her idea to vlog every day until Christmas, and thus, Vlogmas was born:
A lot has changed since that video — not just for Nilsen, who no longer participates in Vlogmas or daily vlogs herself — but for Vlogmas as an entity. While Nilsen's original Vlogmas videos featured a short title with music, as the tradition has snowballed and spread to other creators, production value has exploded, resulting in introductions like this animated sequence created for vlogger Zoe Sugg's 2016 Vlogmas videos:
"I think it’s just really awesome," Nilsen told me over the phone when I asked how it felt to see something she created become so popular all over YouTube. "I think that, at my core, I’m somebody that loves to create, and I really love seeing how ideas can really just become so much bigger than what you intended in really amazing ways. I think it’s awesome that it has touched so many people and has provided joy for so many people, because that’s initially what I set out to do."
Her original inspiration for Vlogmas was to create something akin to a digital advent calendar. In 2017, daily vlogging is a huge genre for online creators, but back in 2011, that wasn't the case. It was rare that you'd see someone give such an intimate look into their lives every single day, especially not a beauty YouTuber like Nilsen.
"I think that’s what made it different," she said. "Because I also had something else going on as well."
Of course, she had no idea it would take off the way it did, but Christmas spirit is something that inspires this kind of camaraderie, which is probably why the concept of Vlogmas is so appealing in the first place.
"I think it really brings out a sense of nostalgia, especially as you get older and you start forming your own traditions, and being able to see other people live out their lives [you get] inspiration from them," Nilsen explained. "Especially around holiday season, which can be such a happy time but can also be a really difficult time for people, different individuals from families from all walks of life show the way that they experience the holidays — the positive, the negative, the happy wonderful moments, I think it really gives people a sense of comfort, and I think it’s a beautiful thing."
Each year, interest in Vlogmas grows, as does the amount of content — "Vlogmas 2012," the year after Nilsen kicked it off, returns 898,000 results on Youtube. "Vlogmas 2016"? Over two million.
"I had to take a step back because daily vlogging, I realised, crossed a personal boundary for me in terms of what I feel comfortable with," she told me about the decision. "Everybody has different boundaries around their personal life and what they feel comfortable sharing, and I really had to learn the hard way through experience."
It's something all online creators have to grapple with, especially when so much of what they do is putting themselves online. For Nilsen, there are some things, like friendships and relationships, she would rather enjoy IRL, something she learned thanks to experiences like Vlogmas.
Instead, this year she hopes to start a new tradition with her mother: seeing the Nutcracker ballet in New York City. As for Vlogmas, it's more than capable of going on without her, and she's happy to let it fly.
"It’s something that I don’t even need credit for," she said. "It feels good just seeing that joy spreading in the world. It’s really, really wonderful."