There’s nothing like an ad that tugs at the heart strings to make you feel 100% inadequate about your own Christmas. I know that everyone looks forward to them and that they’ve become a ‘thing’, but really, don’t they stir up emotions that are very complicated?

I think us Brits don’t do heart-on-the-sleeve thing terribly well. Faced with an ad that pings at all those feelings we manage to avoid facing every day, it’s easy to be quite frightened of how we can be stirred. Which then can lead to a whole other set of emotions around Christmas.

There are very few of us who can put our hands up to a perfect Christmas. Thanks to the ‘magic’ of movies and TV, the ideal Christmas is a snowy backdrop, a roaring fire, happy children, some poor old mum slaving away (gladly, of course) in the kitchen to bring out the most important meal of the year, and of course, mountains of perfectly wrapped gifts under a giant pine tree.

The pressure for this one day of the year to be the salve that cures all ills is too much. Christmas is a truly miserable and unhappy time for many – those film families don’t exist in real life, we have to accept what we have, warts and all. And, the melting pot for all the emotions around it begins to bubble with the Christmas ads.

Christmas intensifies loneliness – you can be in the heart of all of it and still feel alone. It’s really okay to put your hand up and say, Christmas is a bit shit. Once you’ve said it out loud, it seems a more reasonable expectation that your family will inevitably all argue, that the kids will be up half the night in a frenzy of anticipation and spend most of the actual day crying from exhaustion. It’s completely fine not to be Heston Blumethal for the day, to resent having a house full of relatives and to be significantly underwhelmed at your gifts.

You absolutely won’t be the only one to feel that you’re the one person in the world not loving it. Many people have nobody and somehow have to get through the day imagining a different life. But it’s one day. One day only. All this turmoil for one day.

So, I’m just saying that those Christmas ads aren’t about real families and real situations, or even real life. The ads make you see what you think you don’t have – no wonder everyone cries. I’ll also point out that in reality, penguins might look cute but they really, really smell. And are incontinent. It’s better maybe to look at what you really have, know it for what it is, work around it for one day only and switch the TV off every time the John Lewis ad comes on.



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