It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere I go. But it isn’t the garland, the mistletoe or even the damned snow. I see Christmas ads: they’re everywhere.
Every fall, the first TV ad for a table saw or a cordless drill catches me by surprise, and then I remember. Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again — the run-up to the Christmas retail frenzy. The actors we last met just before Father’s Day dust themselves off and grin their way through another inspiring gift-giving moment.
I see chocolates everywhere too. Gold-wrapped confections cascade down pyramids of crystal goblets, glittering all the way. Well, OK, the glasses are probably plastic because they don’t break under this onslaught, but they look like crystal under the lights. They must be glued together, too, come to think of it — but we’re absolutely not supposed to think about how the effect is created. We’re supposed to go out and buy chocolates, driven by unendurable desire. Chocolate sells itself any other time of year, but not at Christmas.
Fending off the confectionery, I’m tackled by jewellery. Where do they keep those snazzy watches the rest of the year? They’re all expensive, of course, because he’s worth it. And the diamonds? They’re as priceless as she is.
Exhausted by the intensity of it all, I turn off the TV and head outside, but there’s no escape on the street. Billboard-sized bottles of expensive scotch and high-fat liqueurs appear at intersections and above parking lots, touting their impossibly conflicted message of self-control and indulgence. Drink responsibly, but drink what we make. Drink. Drink!
The unreality wearies me too: the perfect rooms, the not-a-hair-out-of-place actors with their capped-teeth smiles. All the children, precocious; all the old people, wise. And that spunky mother of two in a designer hand-knit sweater? Apparently she’s just off the toboggan hill, but without the hat hair and sniffly nose that inevitably accompany that outing in my world.
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the season, I truly do. I love the way the stores look, at least from outside, especially after it’s dark. I love the twinkly lights on trees, eaves and balconies. I even love to buy Christmas presents. That moment of finding the right gift for someone is a delight. I just hate being exhorted to buy, with techniques so sophisticated and yet so clumsy.
It reminds me again that in this, as in many other aspects of life, less is more. In a world in which everyone is shouting at me, what catches my attention is a whisper. With products shoved in my face, what captivates my interest is something glimpsed out of the corner of my eye.
How odd that even all this advertising excess can remind us of the Christmas message–the quiet, unassuming arrival of hope and love in our world.