/ Money, Shopping, Travel & Leisure

Does Christmas commercialisation wind you up?

Paper Christmas tree

Shops have been stocking Christmas tat since October – way too early to start getting into the festive spirit. Does this suck the joy out of Christmas for you?

I love Christmas. Looking ahead to some time off with my family, eating lovely food, making the people I love happy by giving them gifts and, of course, getting them myself. What’s not to like?

Well, there is one thing actually – the shops’ insistence on marketing Christmas from October. At the very least, they should wait until Bonfire Night has passed (like we have with the publication of this convo). And preferably later. They certainly shouldn’t be sticking the chocolate reindeer and gift sets up next to Halloween masks and plastic pumpkins.

Why are we so wound up by Christmas?

A recent poll by Uswitch found that Christmas is number five on a list of things that wind people up during winter, coming in above slipping on ice and their homes being cold.

I reckon this is because they’re so fed up with being continually reminded to spend money and buy festive stuff. It sucks the joy out of what should be a happy celebration.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can appreciate some time off and an excuse to snuggle in front of the telly. And if you do celebrate it, then you should be looking forward to digging out the Christmas CDs and decorations, choosing festive fizz and deciding who’s going to cook the turkey this year. You shouldn’t be moaning in a survey about how you’d rather fall on your backside on the ice than have fun with your family.

Does festive marketing cast a dampener on your own Christmas plans, or does it help get you in the mood? When would you prefer to see Christmas stuff appearing on the shop shelves?


Absolutely. If commercial firms cannot control themselves perhaps a law restricting the sale and advertising until after November 11th. No accidentally tying of sales campaigns to worthier events.

Oh dear…. I rather like the early portents of Xmas. But then my beloved despairs when I get the crates of Xmas lights out in Mid-October…

I must also confess to having crate-loads of Christmas lights, but they don’t come out before 20 December.

Until the advent of affordable LED lights, it used to take me a month to get them all working again 🙂

I think it’s reached a low point when retailers send out e-mails to customers about the launch of their Christmas advertising campaigns, and the media actually review this ephemera as if they are significant movies, analysing the themes, plot lines, characterisation, animation, music and graphics. Talk about incestuous.

A bag of humbugs, please.

I can’t help but admire the marketing stroke of genius that has turned the Christmas advert into an ‘event’. Someone somewhere has achieved the feat of getting millions of people to advertise an advert on their behalf….for free.

The spend on the Xmas Ad creations is monumental. They’re more mini-dramas, now, than simply ads. But I’m not sure it was, as you suggest, just marketing genius. More likely that most folk love Xmas, love the feelings associated with the entire period and, probably most importantly, enjoy well-made television. Entertainment is the fastest growing business in the modern world for good reason: we enjoy being distracted, often from high-pressure jobs, family problems, financial worries and much more. The best of the Xmas ads are truly memorable – quite often because they’re not selling something directly, only evoking an emotional response. This year’s JL ad is an excellent example.

And, as a corollary to that, it’s worth remembering that all outstanding ad campaigns have become features in their own right. Most recently, the meerkat ads and, earlier, Heineken and those superb ads by Ridley Scott. We’re suckers for well-made entertainment.

I’d say that tapping into the feelings you’ve listed above on such a large scale and translating it into an advert for your business could be considered marketing genius – these firms certainly aren’t putting the spend just to spread Christmas cheer.

But the real masterstroke is in the sharing and discussion when the advert is released – you can’t buy that sort of publicity (and it would seem, you don’t need to). Upon its release I was bombarded by it, and not by companies, but by my friends – it’s crazy.

Oh, I’m sure a lot of genius was employed throughout the process. My argument, though, was more or less what you’ve said in your final sentence: combing huge spend with a season in which folk actively want distractions and entertainment has combined with the explosion in social media to produce the current situation. In other words, the ‘event’ status which you credit to Marketing I suspect is more a social phenomenon. Great benefit to the ad companies, of course, but led by the insatiable desire for distraction on the part of ordinary folk. It’s a bit chicken and egg: which came first – the collective delight in the sparking quality of the Xmas ads, or the Xmas ads’ marketing to make them such scintillating yet ephemeral objects of desire?

I suppose I sometimes suspect that Marketing is often credited far more than is deserved.

I can clearly remember what I consider to be one of the cleverest Christmas marketing campaigns ever. It was roundabout 2002 or 2003 and was for Woolworths. The ad featured a visitor from outer space who, while remarking on the “breathable air”, went into a Woolworth’s store and was amazed by the variety and attractiveness of the products on sale. The animation, music, lyrics, and storyline were all brilliant with very compact execution [probably only 30 sec], and it captured the unique Woolworth image and product range perfectly. I did have it recorded on a VHS cassette but it went in one of the clear-outs and I have since looked for it on-line without success. It was a triumph of marketing and creative genius and way ahead of its time – in more ways than one.

I try to ignore the Christmas commercialisation, though I do get annoyed when normally quiet shops start playing music.

Last year I was horrified to find the local Tesco playing music throughout the store. The lady at the checkout in Marks & Spencer commented about the music from a portable CD player, saying ‘it’s doing my head in’.

Sorry; can’t resist

Dashing through the shops
Feeling rather low,
What will I get the kids this year?
There’s not much Ho, Ho, Ho!

Does it have to start
As early as it does?
Factor fifty five alongside
Crackers? Have a heart!


Jingle bells, Ringing tills,
Sounding through the stores
Chrsitmas comes but once a year
And aren’t you glad it does?


Swipe your card, enter PIn,
Cash just wanes away,
Don’t forget to save some, though,
To use on Boxing day!

Happy Xmas Sales!


Well, you made me do it. You made me make a Christmas related comment the Feature Comment on the homepage. And I hate early Christmas, but your song is gold. 🔔

You’re all very kind. Contributions in plain brown envelopes, please… 😇 😉

All the way through this poem, you had me singing along! Ace poem, Ian 🙂 For me, I always think that Christmas starts when you hear that first Christmas tune on the radio/in-store. I agree, however, that shops are selling items for Christmas way too early – I believe I saw content on sale back in August!

Thank you, Andrew.

I think December 1st is an ideal date for the shops to start pushing Christmas goods. Does anyone seriously buy their mince pies in October and if they do what on earth are the manufacturers putting in them to make them last that long

I agree, Maisie. The first of December is early enough. Have a look at the mince pies on sale early in shops’ festive season and the ‘Best Before’ date will be before Christmas.

Thank you, Lisa. 🎀 🎁

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I have always thought how much the UK would benefit from the abolition of all TV adverts so that the miraculous life style of the happy TV families does not rub in the difference between the have and the have-nots.

This has become particularly important given the increasing use of dubbed of nasty little US adverts which are set in peculiarly well specced homes..

It’s approaching winter here, the clocks have been put back, it’s dark at 4pm, the days are short, the weather is damp and the skies are grey and cloudy, so love it or hate it Christmas is a welcome arrival at this time of the year. The shops are aglow with brightly coloured illuminations to lift the spirits, Christmas trees are appearing in town and city squares adorned with their baubles and trinkets and twinkling lights and Santa hats are appearing on the heads of staff behind the ringing tills.

This time of the year can be very depressing, the lack of light can affect some people’s mood, especially those who suffer SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and with the summer now gone this can give rise to depressing thoughts of a long cold winter ahead. As a mark of respect to the relatives and friends of people who have lost loved ones, whether through illness or defending their country in conflict, Christmas celebrations should be kept low key or delayed, at least until after Remembrance Day. Way back in August I was sent a pack of Christmas cards in the post by a well known charity which I took exception to and binned. I have recently bought some from a charity of my own choice.

As far as the commercialisation of Christmas goes, I will keep it as low key as possible but stores are relying on Cbristmas takings to boost their profit margins and some go to huge expense to decorate their Branches appealingly in order to introduce a little magic and fantasy into the whole spirit of Christmas. And why not, we all need a bit of a boost to get us through the long dark days ahead until the Spring, and just imagine what it would be like if there was no Christmas!

Well said Beryl.

We were quite uplifted to see a huge and beautifully decorated artificial Christmas tree standing in Tesco’s where the fireworks booth had been this last few weeks. The remnants of a left-over pumpkin were scattered around the car park as though it had been used for goal practice. All signs that the Christmas season is well and truly open.

However, reflecting on what Beryl has said, there should be a bit more sensitivity – there are still two more days to go until Armistice Day. I would suggest that Christmas should wait until the 12th of November. That still leaves plenty of time.

Obviously, because of the severe austerity we are experiencing at this time, it will be a particularly parsimonious Christmas this year and the stores should not be expecting a bumper spend. Nevertheless, it is so competitive out there in retail-land that they are all vying for whatever they can catch and are elbowing their way into our living rooms with their dire commercials which will run for weeks on end.

The commercialisation of Christmas takes all the joy out of it. It all starts too soon and seems to have become a competition to see how much you can spend. I spoke to someone recently who was planning to get a £1000 loan so her two kids could have a decent Christmas. My two will be doing well if I can afford anything for them. Christmas used to be about family and fun. Now all it’s about is money!

Jules says:
9 November 2015

I think Christmas should “arrive” in December, not flipping’ August. And when you go into a shop on Christmas Eve they’re already taking down the Decorations! I love Christmas, but leave the decorations up until 12th night please!

I agree Jules, it starts far too early. Look out for Easter Eggs on the shelves on Boxing Day. 🙂

Most Northern European countries would have lights up throughout the darker months, even without Xmas. My only niggle is that they get taken down too early. We always light candles in the house for the sensation of warmth they generate and for their attractiveness. As a kid I used to hate it when ITV would show adverts for beach holidays on Boxing Day. And I have to say that I always remember the commercialisation of the period. That’s nothing new, and the pattern (to me, anyway) has always been the same: Halloween, November 5th then Xmas displays. I admit I noticed some small Xmassy things popping up in Tesco and M & S, but not – oddly – Asda. The big chains appear to dedicate two aisles to seasonal merchandising, so they fill them with Halloween stuff and gradually pop in the Xmas things as the other is sold off. But in general I agree with Beryl wholeheartedly.

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Hi Duncan, that’s mysterious. I can’t find what you’re referring to. It could be we had a spam comment (which we sometimes get – please report them if you see them!) that’s now been removed. Or perhaps it’s something else. Can you still see it? Could you tell me exactly where it appeared? Thanks

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I liked the campaign sometime ago that tried to ‘kick Christmas into December’. Now the commercial drive begins as soon as the ‘back to school’ one ends.

As a Christian I love the story and the central message, and the general feeling of goodwill and generosity, but find the constant stream of commercial adverts, posters and emails distracting and tiresome. It’s easy to become too weary with all the hype to enjoy the day.

It does not have to be expensive to tell friends and family that you appreciate them. I feel for those who are pressured to spend far more than they can afford.

So forgive me if I don’t wish you all a Happy Christmas yet!

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I would like to see a ban on Christmas decorations in commercial contexts before 1st December. Any Christmas decorations before this date commercialise Christmas and give the wrong message to children.