‘Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me’

Lauren Sutherland examines the joys of the Christmas family feud

For some, it’s the airing of the first Coca Cola advert, for others it’s the perennial warble of The Pogues’ ‘The Fairytale of New York’, but in the Sutherland household, the coming of Christmas is heralded only by the first tantrum of the season. 

Christmas has always been advertised as the happiest time of the year and if you think otherwise, well “Bah! Humbug!” to you.  Nevertheless, with the Christmas season seeing the highest suicide rates and development of Seasonal Depression, it’s no wonder Christmas Ads seem somewhat faux.  So what have Christmas Adverts over the past few years taught us?  Perhaps that all British Christmases should be accompanied by an Ellie Goulding cover of an 80s power ballad or that an absence of Iceland’s luxury mini-bites renders any festive party forgettable.

Now don’t get me wrong; give me Birdy singing a slow version of Wham!’s ‘Wake me up before we Go-Go’ played over an M&S advert, and I’m a blubbering mess, but if we’re expected to measure our Christmas against these romanticised ideals, then no wonder the reality is a let-down.  Asda’s ‘Behind every Christmas, there’s Mum’ marketing ploy is entirely misleading.  This poor woman rushes around for hours on end without so much as a finger lifted by any other family member and, among a sea of solid structured chairs, is fated to a sorry looking ottoman.  My mother is no such martyr, I’m always being asked to do things!  What’s that all about Asda?  False advertising if ever I saw it.  And you know you’ve hit rock bottom when watching John Lewis’ snowman pop down to its nearest high street store, you realise that an inanimate object has a better love life than you and the green-eyed monster can’t help but rear its ugly head.

Obviously, these adverts are to be taken with a pinch of salt since Morrison’s isn’t going to sell anything if their advert consists of a lonely soul crying into their Christmas Dinner flavoured soup (except maybe Kleenex – definitely feel they’ve missed out on a marketing trick there), but in reality, not everyone is blessed with good company and Christmas cheer, and when these seasonal adverts claim otherwise, no wonder a proportion of the nation’s spirits plummets.  Even former Atomic-kitten, Kerry Katona, is having a blast, tucking into those Iceland mini vol-au-vents; now that can’t be great for morale.

Christmas in the Sutherland household, is like a pigment lacking holiday maker, bathing in the midday sun.  You enter with high hopes but leave with, at best, a little discomfort and at worst, 3rd degree burns.  Minus the sun, add a frustrated mother boiling carrots, and it’s pretty much exactly the same situation.  I arrive home for the Christmas holidays from the dazzling lights of Oxford Street, to a house that can only be described as a pre-enlightened Scrooge’s paradise.

The world’s impending doom aside, Christmas preparation is vital.  And, most important is the rehearsal of the infamous ‘present face’ that emerges roughly twice a year, when your Aunt proudly hands you a floral ironing-board cover or when your Grandfather informs you that he’s donated £20 to the Treasury in your name to “settle up your inherited debt”.  So to avoid those Christmas tears and tantrums, just follow this 3 point plan for all your Yuletide ‘present face’ needs.

1)     The wide, unwavering eyes.  Remember, blinking gives the game away.

2)     The rictus smile.  Fake smiles can be pretty hard to pull off, so just open your mouth really wide and that should do the trick.  (Number of teeth showing at your discretion.)

3)     Vigorous gesticulation.  All limbs involved for optimum effect.

And if the tantrums can’t quite be averted, at least we can take solace in the fact that, due to the recession and a sharp spike in the price of Brussel Sprouts this festive season, a few tears will be spared in that department.

It’s no coincidence that the first working day of the New Year has been christened Divorce Monday, when tensions reach vulcanicity, but we’re rarely shown that side of the coin in these festive adverts.  Maybe we all just need to lower our standards slightly because those who say that Christmas is always the happiest time of the year probably haven’t had a particularly great year.  So, give the gift of cynicism this Christmas.  It’s one that just keeps on giving.