Can you imagine the pressure on the individuals charged with creating this year’s John Lewis advert? In 2010 when John Lewis released their incredibly clever Christmas advert, using the Billy Joel classic ‘She’s Always A Woman,’ grown men wept into their Chinese take-aways, making this £6m project an incredibly hard act to follow.
This year’s advert is nothing short of bizarre. It features a rabbit befriending a bear “who has never seen Christmas”. I won’t spoil the ending but the advert’s closing line is “give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget” and the broad message of the advert is of course, “this goal will be best achieved through gifts,” and the childish narrative of the advert means that that“someone” is likely to be a child.
John Lewis are of course retailers and one would not expect them to convey any other message. But I couldn’t help but feel sorry for parents who are forced to tighten their belts this year and who understandably want to offer their children an unforgettable Christmas without incurring debt.
Of course, the irony is that Christmases saturated with gifts are pretty forgettable. Every year, on Boxing Day, I witness all the young children in my family receiving piles of presents. Children make Christmases memorable and it’s always nice to see them excited when it’s present time. Coming from a large family, it’s always bedlam with parents frantically writing down what there child has received and who from so they can spend January writing piles of thank you letters. Something is always lost, or a ten-pound note accidentally thrown in the bin with the wrapping paper.
The pressure of watching my nieces and nephews open their presents requires a large gin and tonic in hand so I can drink through the disappointment on their little faces and pretend it just isn’t happening. So I cannot imagine the pressure on parents and ridiculously emotive adverts such as John Lewis’s will only contribute to this desire to throw an incredibly extravagant Christmas; the Christmas their little ones “will never forget.”
The irony is however, that the more they receive, the more they forget. One present is opened, observed and then a child’s focus will naturally move the next present in the pile.
How much we buy the children we love is always a dilemma because we want to be generous and we want them to be happy. But perhaps Catholics can lead the way this year, in showing some resistance to the commercial monster which is devouring Christmas and its traditional, humble origins.
I am sure Pope Francis will be urging us to at least try.