Wednesday, 13 November 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas advertising

I could be wrong (I am occasionally...) but this is the first year I've noticed Christmas advertising starting the day after Bonfire Night.

I just can't remember it happening last year, or the year before although the advertising has become increasingly invasive over the past few years. But this year, as soon as the last fireworks were out of the sky, we started seeing Christmas ads on TV...and not just one or two, but end-to-end ads telling us how much money we have to spend to have a good time. On the 6th November?! It's just ridiculous.

And before anyone shouts "Bah Humbug!" at me, it's not that I don't like Christmas because I do. I also like John Lewis. A lot. In fact I love their fabulous store in Liverpool so much I often refer to it as my spiritual home and in all honesty I think their Christmas ads are lovely, really festive and usually a great choice of songs (The Smiths' one was the best) but it's only the 13th November for crying out load and I'm already sick to the teeth of watching it. And when I heard someone on TV refer to the John Lewis Christmas ad as being "a bit like the Queen's speech" it made me want to bang my head on the table, and I'm not even a monarchist.

For me, the lead up to big day - which is, after all, only one day - is all about listening to carols, playing my favourite Christmas CDs, decorating the tree (although not too early!), eating warm mince pies with a glass of sherry, watching endless Christmas films, visiting old friends and neighbours, and spending time with the people who are important to us.

And this year we're going to visit the Christmas markets in Manchester for the first time, and I'm hoping to appeal to my daughters' better nature and get them to come to a Christmas Carol concert with me - something they haven't wanted to do for years.

I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the commercial message that Christmas can only be enjoyed if we spend huge amounts of money on each other. In these times of austerity, when foodbanks are becoming increasingly busy, utility bills are reaching outrageous amounts,  and everyone is counting every penny the notion that we have to splash out - and there are plenty of people who use credit cards to fund their Christmas spending - feels wrong.

There's something very jarring about watching the news footage of the devastation in the Phillipines and then a few minutes later being subjected to wall-to-wall Christmas advertising. The contrast in fortunes is obscene.

We're planning to have a good Christmas, but we'll do it without getting into debt. The house will be decorated, we'll all be well-fed, and my girls will get their presents - not a silly amount, but a few that I know they'll like. Like most people I have a strict budget to keep to and we'll stick to it. And somewhere in there we'll even find time to remember what the season is supposed to be about.

I'm sorry John Lewis et al, but this year I'm opting out.

If you're thinking of donating food to a foodbank this Christmas, you can find the nearest one to you here.

You can donate to the Phillipines Typhoon appeal here.