Ladies and Gentleman. In December I will, in all likelihood, bore you with Christmas posts but for the moment I do not feel it appropriate.
When I was about 6 or 7 it went something like this. In early December the local Christmas lights went on. It involved Santa standing on a local roof (The health and safety laws would have a field day with that one.). The crowd sang Carols and eventually, after a countdown, Santa threw the switch. On went the lights and we would go home to bed. But I was annoyed as well as excited that night. The young Bot (Maybe showing signs of curmudgeon Bot of the future.) resented the fact that the switch on wasn’t immediately followed by Christmas. The gut wrenching excitement was tempered with impatience. Why were there a few weeks more school to endure?
Then those weeks went by and the end of the Term approached. We all took food in for the Christmas party and lessons involved the making of paper chains. On the last day we went into the big hall to see tables groaning with food. There was music and country dancing, more Carols and you ate till you felt sick, Some were sick, overcome with food and that same stomach churning excitement that it was now only ONE week till the great day. That week was terrible, not only was the excitement growing but I had no school to take my mind off it.
Eventually the day arrived and it was as exciting as I had expected. Of the anti-climax on Boxing day I will not write, except that it was an anti-climax. Ironically I now use boxing day as my Christmas with my children and grandchildren, thus giving my wife and I Christmas day to do what we wish.
So why, when I plainly get excited about it, and when you see the Category am I telling you all this now?
I understand that we in the UK are in a pretty depressing financial situation. I understand that shops need to make money. I even understand that those who are profitable are greedy enough to want even more. Sales and profits are becoming the main reason for Christmas. I am not religious but I do have my reasons for celebrating Christmas. Even so it was originally a religious ceremony, even in pre Christian times, and it is ironic that greed, envy and anger feature quite heavily in the build-up. This is illustrated by another American tradition, Black Friday , which has crept across the Atlantic recently. I think of it as a pre Christmas feeding frenzy.
So why am I all in a dither? It is November. We have just had Halloween and Bonfire night, a truly UK only event! There have been many Christmassy posts on social media for at least a month but people need something to look forward to. Then, just a few days after November the 5th every advert is about Christmas. People have started putting up their trees and lights. Social media is flooded with it. Every item advertised, no matter how unrelated to the season is touted as the perfect Christmas present. There really is no such thing. No matter how poor you are your TV will show tables groaning under mountains of food, The unspoken threat is that you will become a pariah if you do not emulate this feast.
I read somewhere that the average spend on Children’s presents is between £600-1000. I could do a weekly shop for months with that. I was grateful for an Action Man (=G.I. Joe) which cost about £5 (Maybe 10-15 these days.). The present I most remember as a kid was a Scalextric toy car racing track which ran on electricity. Even then it was only about £30.
So it is only November and we sheep are already being fleeced, willingly it seems. In the last few years I admit sales have been down in December. Whether through greed or a genuine need for sales in a failing business the companies have obviously decided to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Well I for one am not willing to endure this, but essentially powerless to prevent it. All I can do is ask a question or two.
What of those who are poor and cannot provide the advertisers ‘Ideal Christmas’?
What of those who work, and must continue to work till a few days before Christmas, whose leisure time is full of exhortations to spend money on achieving said IC?
What of those who watch these advertisements with a feeling of guilt because theirs will be puny by comparison?
Most of all the child Bot only had to last a month, and his adult counterpart can tolerate a month of this frenzy. I am sure the child would have been fed up with it after two months and so will I. This is somewhat like Quixote tilting at windmills but there is a serious point. In previous years the main push has started in December, never this early. Even so there are deaths, deliberate suicides, from those who are alone or poor or homeless at Christmas. This can only be exacerbated by this deliberate shifting of the build up to maximise sales. imagine if you are prone to depression and constantly bombarded with the notion of failure if you do not have a wonderful time come 25th December.
I do not advocate laws forbidding Christmas ads before December but surely they could be low key until November is out. Maybe, if your campaign is managed carefully, you could hint at the ads to come. That might create even more interest in your product and excitement in the kids of today.
I promise that future Christmas posts will be nicer, and contrary to the impression this post creates, the older Bot does love Christmas in its Christian and pre Christian traditions and symbols. I like ‘Christmas vacation’. I watch at least two versions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ every year and try to read the book. In short I just don’t think the build up should begin this early.
Speech by Scrooge’s nephew from ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew: “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”