Christmas is dead, and John Lewis killed it
Capitalism has won
Ask the average person what signifies the start of the Christmas period. You will only ever get a couple of answers: ‘Starbucks Red Cups’, ‘pigs in blankets’, or the more recent phenomenom, ‘the John Lewis advert’.
The start of Advent? The start of December? The first falling of the first snowflake? Nah, who has the patience these days, just show me a penguin and BAM, the tree comes out and the jumpers are on.
I’m not religious. I don’t enjoy Christmas because of trips to freezing cold churches, the symbolic meaning or even the Christmas morning carol service on Radio 4. But even I can appreciate the fact that Christmas, in any traditional sense, is being gradually eroded.
Adverts have become the harbingers of the modern-day Christmas period. We are now mindless drones, only capable of recognising stages of the year by looking at what’s on the shelves in Tesco.
Enter the John Lewis advert. Costing £7 million to make, this year it features a young girl spotting a man living on the moon (don’t get me started on the scientific issues), and her quest to send him a Christmas present. The adverts began in 2007, and have snowballed (pun completely intended) into an annual event almost more significant than the holiday they’re supposed to promote.
“That’s a ridiculous claim” I hear you cry. Perhaps, wouldn’t be the first one I’ve made, but look at the hysteria surrounding them. Christmas itself is taking a back seat, while John Lewis drives it out into the woods, shotgun in hand, all the while muttering ‘it’s better this way’.
Take the example of music. The Christmas number one has been a huge honour in the music industry for decades, despite the fact that in recent years it’s become the ‘Simon Cowell’ award. It epitomises the emphasis on Christmas which many of us still embrace, feeling so caught up in the season that we buy anything and everything which represents it.
The John Lewis ad’s use of music is therefore worthy of looking at. Gabrielle Aplin got to number one with her rendition of ‘The Power of Love’ in 2012, so did Lily Allen in 2013 with her cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. Like a really thorough case of identity theft, adverts are slowly imitating aspects of their victim’s life, ready to move in for the kill.
Not even considering how crazy it is that a TV advert even has a release date actual human beings get excited about, just look at how early the adverts come out. They gradually moved from mid to early November, this year’s coming out on the 6th. This is no longer a gentle reminder that Christmas is approaching, and that you may want to start buying turkeys. This is a flashing red light and klaxon, screaming ‘BUY OUR PRODUCTS OR YOUR CHILDREN WILL STOP LOVING YOU’.
Yes it’s emotional. Yes they’ve teamed up with Age UK to promote a very worthy cause. The issue with this is that they’re just tugging on our heartstrings to make more money. We are pawns in this game of teary, corporate chess, powerless to resist the dark forces at work.
Christmas, whatever religion or mindset you follow, is a holiday where we are supposed to spend time with our loved ones, spend time with friends and get a little bit too drunk at family gatherings. Christmas should not be about spending all of your student loan on presents by mid-November, or trying to one-up people who didn’t spend as much as you.
Yes presents are an integral part of Christmas festivities, but they shouldn’t be THE integral part. Chill out, make a card by hand or something, put some actual thought into a present that goes beyond looking at the price tag. Don’t let consumerism be the defining feature of the Christmas period (no matter how many times you cry when you see the telescope skidding across the surface of the moon).