Sudden cardiac death is a significant health issue, causing millions of deaths worldwide annually. Studies have found that the likelihood of such death is higher in winter. Further studies identified that the highest likelihood occurs on Christmas Day and New Years Day, but not the interim period. Thanksgiving, Independence Day and the Islamic holiday Eid Al-Fitr also show significant increases in the rate of cardiac events or death. A number of mechanisms have been proposed, but none have satisfactorily explained the evidence. This article reviews the data supporting the existence of a holiday cardiac death phenomenon, the involvement of catecholamines and the normal modes of human catecholamine deactivation. Further evidence is reviewed that supports a hypothesized mechanism whereby critical SULT1A catecholamine deactivation enzymes can in some patients be inhibited by naturally-occurring phenols and polyphenols in foods and alcohols. If deactivation is inhibited by holiday consumption excesses, holiday stress or excitement could lead to a buildup of catecholamines that can cause fatal arrhythmias. Awareness of this mechanism could reduce deaths, both through doctor/patient education leading to a moderation in consumption and through the potential identification of patients with a predisposition to SULT1A inhibition. This hypothesis also raises parallels between sudden cardiac death in adults and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The possible involvement of SULT1A inhibition in SIDS is discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.