The beginning of November means one sure thing – the retail giants blitz our TV screens with their adverts that are designed to get us to spend, spend, spend!
This year Tesco have found themselves at the centre of a twitter storm over their ad which features an obviously Muslim family celebrating Christmas. Many social media users are uncomfortable with this, with some posts pointing out that a supermarket would be unlikely to produce an ad for Eid which features Christians wearing crucifixes. Rather than enter into a reasoned debate Tesco have, unwisely in my view, simply dismissed their critics as racists.
I can’t help thinking that both Tesco and their critics are missing the point. For most people Christmas is not a religious festival, instead it is a festival of rampant consumerism in which they eat too much, drink too much and spend too much. This is hardly surprising given that most people in Britain, even if they describe themselves as Christian, will only set foot in a church for weddings, baptisms and funerals.
Of course, the commercialisation of Christmas is nothing new. The image that we all have of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man in a red suit dates back to 1931 and a series of Coca Cola adverts.
A few years ago the financial journalist Jeff Randall said that he bins any cards he receives which fail to at least mention Christmas. It’s a viewpoint that has my sympathy.
If I was a cynical person (perish the thought!), I might conclude that Christmas is a time for people to get drunk and give each other ludicrously expensive presents in order to celebrate the birth of someone who most of them don’t believe ever existed in the first place.
Eileen and I don’t give our friends and relatives expensive Christmas presents. Instead we do ethical gifts by making charitable donations on their behalf. It feels like the Christian thing to do.