The John Lewis advert has finally aired, marking, at long last, the start of the long and thrilling mudslide towards Christmas. Laddies and gentlewomen, permission has now been granted from on high to start planning your Secret Santas, begarlanding your work computers with tinsel, and anxiously giving your parents notice that you’ve only been able to obtain a few days’ leave so will be arriving early on Christmas Eve and leaving late on Boxing Day you’re afraid, there’s nothing you can do about it.
I don’t know about you, but as soon as I saw the new John Lewis Christmas advert (I’m lying, I haven’t seen it), I immediately wired J.L. ten quid via PayPal in return for nothing at all, merely because they do such a great job of just being themselves. And I bunged a crisp new Jane Austen to a penguins charity, too, because I loved Elijah Wood in Happy Feet.
Don’t you just love money? Sorry, I mean chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Just the smell of cold hard cash and cloves is enough to make me well up around this time of year, reminding me of all the Christmases I’ve spent putting a brave face on my disappointment at my parents’ financial expenditure. I still remember all those cheery Christmases singing songs in the sitting-room, enjoying the sight of tipsy grown-ups loosening their adultness for an evening, smelling the pine and delighting in the crinkle of the sweet-wrappers by the fireplace, while fuming with rage that my cousin got a Game Boy. The My Little Pony that my sister never got; the year when we couldn’t afford to heat the house for more than 4 hours a day; the quiver-lipped incomprehension at getting a tangerine in the bottom of your stocking to honour some obscure tradition, when citrus fruit is ten a penny for god’s sake: these are the memories I will cherish for all time
It seems apt that, under the coalition, the unveiling of a literal advertisement should have come to mark the annual descent into Christmas insanity. When anything heart-warming, beloved or truly necessary can be co-opted for financial gain and therefore has been or is about to be, there is a ring of poetry to us running around screaming about wide-eyed infants and Antarctic fowl in a feature whose every element has been devised, teased, workshopped and focus-grouped in order to squeeze money from our willing hands. Can we really have so completely forgotten the words of Saint Mariah, in her festive parable ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’? “I don’t need to hang my stocking there, upon the fireplace,” Mariah reminds us, in her wisdom. “Santa Claus won’t make me happy with a toy on Christmas day.”
Indeed. I’m certain I don’t need to remind everyone that Christmas was invented by Coca-Cola and that Santa Claus was trademarked by the company as far back as 1831. The reason Father Christmas wears a red robe in modern depictions of him, in fact, is a nod to the blood spilled in the alleged murders of trade union members by Coca-Cola in Guatemala and Colombia. And Santa rhymes with Fanta. Coincidence?
How I long for us to get back to the real roots of Christmas and celebrate the passing of another agricultural year with a pagan orgy of ale, song, the one piece of meat you’ll eat all year, and vigorous intra-familial intercourse. And alms, of course. Don’t forget alms. Have we already gone too far in the wrong direction, throwing money at a problem that doesn’t exist? In this era of grotesque financial inequality, and with climate change arranging things such that we’ll all be dead in 70 years’ time and it isn’t even cold in November anymore, I propose that we relocate Christmas to late February and call it Yule or ‘non-denominational festive time’, or something even more apt to get up the noses of Top Gear watchers. We would then devote the erstwhile Christmas period to a great festive protest, staying at home and singing and donating to worthwhile causes, while merrily kneeing Big Business one and watching our unelected government cower in fear at the great, holy power of the masses.