Father Christmas has been ushered away from the department store and categorised as a paedophile risk. Christmas songs from yesteryear like Fairytale of New York have been made redundant by Simon Cowell's X Factor factory, in the streamlined race for Christmas number 1. Now Littlewood's has an advert with children announcing that mothers put presents under the Christmas tree and not Santa. As I open my advent calendar window I worry what's next for Christmas. Dickens? Peace and good will?
It's not like Christmas has been consigned to the attic with the tacky, old decorations but it does beg the question; is consumerism discarding Christmas as we know it and gradually turning it into one massive retail event? The balance with the Christmas and consumerism certainly needs re-adjusting.
Firstly, lets explain why consumerism plays a genuine role in Christmas. Christmas is a time which we want to spend with our friends, family and loved ones. We want to stock up our house with mini prawn cocktails, turkey and gammon joints, hoisin duck Christmas trees, and plenty of wine and booze for those Iceland style party scenes. We want to send Hallmark cards wishing seasons greetings to each other. We want to buy or receive gifts, such as the the latest fragrance from Chanel or the iPhone 4S, as a gesture of thanks and love.
Where we have to focus our attention in re-addressing the balance is the development of advertising. Traditionally, advertising has been like a street hawker conjuring up positive images of how it's products will improve Christmas. This flogging of goods has ranged from the street peddler selling wrapping paper to reserving everything online with Argos.
Some companies are more 'sophisticated' in their advertising by attempting to become synonymous with Christmas. They've graduated from a street hawker to one of those spivs preying on dowagers on a cruise ship, as they blend seamlessly into the background, tricking us into parting with our money without us even realising it. To highlight examples, Coca Cola does not declare when the "holidays are coming". My advent calendar does. A gingerbread latte at Starbucks is not "Christmas in a mug". It's a flavoured latte in a red mug.
With our purse strings tightened, advertising campaigns have become desperate in their techniques. They either play on our core emotions with a sob story (John Lewis) or just brazenly drop every retailer's façade (Littlewood's). I can only surmise plans for John Lewis' next Christmas advertising campaign will involve direct-marketing letters of tragedy to elderly women who have just won the lottery or pools. Tears sell. Focusing on Littlewood's, they're sending out the following Christmas message:
1. Children - We'll reveal a trade secret. We scratch your back and you scratch ours. Writing letters to Father Christmas is an ineffective method of getting what you want to boost our sales. He's not real. Your mother buys the presents and has the purchasing power. Pestering her and showering with love are highly effective.
2. Mother - show your children and family how much you love them by buying them nice, expensive presents. They'll then proclaim how much they love and appreciate you instead of being the unsung hero of the house. We know Christmas is expensive so you can buy now and pay the consequences for the rest of the year.
3. Christmas - Step aside. Consumerism has taken central stage.
Increasingly, the primary message for the holidays is to buy and demand desirable items instead of exchanging gifts to celebrate Christmas. If we're not careful about this balance, soon Christmas will become the mass-frenzied scenes witnessed in America during Black Friday. They even tried introducing Black Friday in the UK this year even though, traditionally, we've never celebrated Thanksgiving!
Thankfully, the British public were ambivalent to Black Friday and rejected Littlewood's Christmas message this year. However, if we become apathetic, images of being pepper sprayed by an over-zealous Wal-mart employee, as we desperately clamour for that one-off bargain we don't really need could be replacing standing on a copy of the Yellow Pages to kiss a girl under the mistletoe.
So ask yourself - and please comment - what does Christmas mean to you?
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