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Claire Shropshall Headshot

Christmas Marketing and the Hysteria Illusion

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"Why do they call it 'Christmas time', when 'time' is the one thing you don't have at Christmas?" sighs the Curry's voice-over man on the radio. Before we have a chance to ponder whether this is true, he's chipper as a grotto elf and explaining how the electrical shop plans to make buying their wares 'stress free' this party season.

We all know that things can get a little stressful at this time of year, what with all the panic sock purchases, the inexplicable need to photocopy your bum at the office party and limited time to eat your body mass in mince pies. But one thing that makes all this even less bearable is being surrounded by festive advertising campaigns that promote Christmas as the worst thing to happen since the Holocaust - all in aid of creating the illusion that they can solve various problems (you didn't realise you had) and whisk you off to Crimbo on a wave of serenity, cut prices and next-day-delivery.

'Oh isn't Christmas horrible,' we chortle, as our chapped, bleeding hands get to work on wrapping present number 73,' but thank goodness all these random brands are here to whip up some festive hysteria and get us to spend loads of money on things we didn't know we needed!' Hurrah indeed.

Morrisons have done a particularly spectacular job of aligning Christmas Day with Dante's seventh circle of hell this year. 'Here it begins. It's everywhere. There's so much to do...' whispers a possibly clinically depressed Mum, who morosely trudges through her Christmas 'to do' list with all the festive enthusiasm of a dead kipper. She literally gets in the boxing ring with the turkey, practically has a nervous breakdown while peeling the spuds and eventually proclaims: 'It's hard work, but it's Christmas and I wouldn't have it any other way.' Do we believe her? I put it to you, readers, that it's actually Morrisons that 'wouldn't have it any other way' otherwise who would be bulk buying their cranberry sauce on Christmas Eve?

If mass media is to be believed, there's an unspeakable force of evil in town - and it's jolly ol' Saint Nick. Some of the ad campaigns of recent years are less yuletide joy and more burned out shoppers beating each other out of the way with advocaat bottles and flinging themselves off Rochester Bridge in despair. They're a subtle reminder that the final month of the year is but a grim battleground through which we weep, wail, sweat and bleed until reaching The Perfect Christmas, and an implication that if you're not ready to chew your arm off in anguish yet, you must be doing something wrong. It's the bloody Iron Man of holiday seasons.

Except, actually, I've never had a Christmas like that - and I suspect I'm not the only one. Because adverts like these don't actually exist to soothe your frazzled cranium, they're here to fool you into thinking this time of year is a lot harder than it really is, remind you of problems you don't actually have and MAKE YOU BUY STUFF.

Because is Christmas really so terrible? Is it not about quality time with loved ones, going to stare at the twinkling, luminous Oxford Street lights, making mulled wine at home, badly, hanging up tacky, fluorescent paper chains and mopping up the dog's puke when you forget to hang the Christmas tree chocolates above snout height?

Apparently not. Marks & Spencer's are the latest in a line of high street names to bring out a range of arm corsets, yes arm corsets, to slip under your party frock because at this time of year you definitely shouldn't be having a laugh, you should be worrying about your bingo wings. Next are touting their next-day-delivery offers as the eighth wonder of the world, Boots insist that this year our gifts need to 'keep on giving' and then there's THAT Asda advert. Mum is pictured doing enough heavy Crimbo hauling and sprinting to give Jessica Ennis a stitch, while Dad rests on his haunches and asks 'what's for tea, love?', after she's successfully pulled off Christmas Day on her own. Nothing goes better with a mulled wine and a mince pie than a bit of outdated gender stereotyping, eh Asda? If you weren't already feeling a little frazzled, fear not - these ads will have you hyperventilating into a paper bag before the year is out.

This Christmas, instead of battling fellow shoppers for the last cut price pigs in blankets, as advised by Aldi's 'once they're gone, they're gone' mantra, I'll be tuning out the avalanche of bile taking over the TV and radio waves and actually enjoying myself. Spending time with people I care about, exchanging sloppily wrapped gifts and not having a hernia because someone forgot to buy the Pringles. It may not be 'perfect', but I'll bet it will be traditional.