WASHINGTON, December 23, 2014 — Before you rush out the door for those last minute Christmas gifts, remember one of the more depressing aspects of Christmas is the hijacking of valuable human emotions in order to sell stuff.
The season of selling is in full swing here in the U.K. It started with a noticeable increase in the number of fragrance advertisements in the last weeks of November. Come December it was open season, with the heavyweight stores presenting their long thought-out seasonal campaigns.
John Lewis is a department store that is respected for two reasons in Britain. Firstly, it offers the guarantee, “Never Knowingly Undersold,” meaning if they find a product cheaper elsewhere, they will lower their price to match it. Secondly, they share their profits with all staff, be they CEO or janitor, which this year was worth an extra nine weeks salary. In a crowd of merciless profit chasers, they are the good guys.
Their television advert features the unlikely friendship of a bear and a hare. Surprisingly, the bear doesn’t eat the floppy eared fuzzball and they become friends. When the bear disappears to hibernate, the hare is left without his companion. Lonely, the hare somehow wraps a gift and leaves it in the sleeping bear’s cave. When all the other animals are enjoying Christmas Day with their furry mates, the hare feels lonely without his big lumbering friend.
Except the bear turns up, woken by the alarm clock that was his gift. It is a happy ending folks. The hare is no longer alone on Christmas Day and the bear still doesn’t eat the hare even though he’s probably a little grumpy at having his hibernation interrupted.
The most beautiful of emotions are all here; love, loss, friendship, grief, joy. And all in two minutes. “Give someone a Christmas they won’t forget” runs the strapline, with the John Lewis logo emblazoned underneath.
GO SHOPPING is what they really mean. Which produced another emotion in this writer: nausea. Show me the products and tell me what they cost. Don’t toy with my emotions in order to keep the wheels of commerce turning.
Whatever your religion, Christmas can be many things: a time to rest for a few days after a year of striving; an opportunity to spend some quality time with friends or family you may have neglected due to hectic work schedules. It can even mean just getting out of the city and breathing some country air. And sure, buy somebody a gift. Just don’t submit to the relentless hectoring to shop. Christmas can and should be magical.
Just don’t let the advertising men cheapen it for you.
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