Candy canes, mistletoe and mince pies all have Christian origins....
What is this new tradition where expensive adverts are treated as news? The Church Mouse says a change of attitude is needed.
Occasionally a new 'tradition' emerges in our culture.
In recent years American style trick-or-treating has arrived in the UK at Halloween, something which was almost unheard of 30 years ago. More recently the 'Black Friday' sale has inexplicably inserted itself into our calendar, again imported from the US where retailers put on a sale the day after Thanksgiving.
One of the stranger of these new 'traditions' is the big Christmas advert. Major retailers compete with each other to create memorable advertising in the run up to Christmas, with mixed success.
Christmas adverts are nothing new. Coca Cola's 'Holidays are coming' campaign started in 1995 and still appears today. They've actually produced Christmas themed adverts since the 1930s, often featuring the jolly red-suited Santa helping to define our modern image of him.
But something is different now. They've become more than just adverts. They have become events.
In anticipation of this year's Christmas adverts, The Mirror ran a story, 'When is the John Lewis 2017 Christmas advert released on TV? Everything you need to know', while the Telegraph went with 'Retailers launch their Christmas adverts. Which is your favourite?'. Every news outlet from Sky News to the Coventry Telegraph have devoted column inches to telling us which companies have released Christmas adverts, what they think of them and what other people think of them.
Mouse's response is that he doesn't need to known anything about them, and he no more has a favourite advert than he has a favourite bus ticket. What on earth is going on? Since when did the existence of an advert become news? Mouse's whiskers are bristling at all this and I wanted to work out why this makes me so uncomfortable.
The main issue is what these adverts are trying to sell. I don't mean the products themselves. I mean the message that underpins all this advertising – our products can make your life better this Christmas. See how happy you could make your loved ones with a gift bought from our great selection. See how enjoyable your family Christmas meal will be with our delicious food. Enormous sums of money are being spent trying to convince us that material possessions will make us happy.
I have no doubt there are many wonderful gifts on the shelves of our retailers and food that could make your mouth water just at the thought of it. And of course, if given the choice most people would prefer a delicious and plentiful meal to a meagre one. Surely everyone would prefer generous and extravagant gifts to less generous and extravagant ones. But the mistake is to believe that these things matter very much at all.
Value people, not products
This Mouse simply does not believe that your Christmas will be any better or worse based on whether you spend the wealth of Midas on your meal and gifts or whether you spend less than…well a Church Mouse. The recipe for human flourishing is given to us at the heart of the story we are celebrating at Christmas. Jesus came that we may have life in all its fullness and he didn't feel the need to plug the local grocery store to make that happen.
Life will be better if it is filled with more love tomorrow than it was today. It will be better if your relationships are closer and more supportive tomorrow than they are today. It will be better if you give and receive forgiveness for past mistakes and live with peace in your heart. In short, it is better as we learn to live the Jesus way.
Perhaps it is the times we live in which makes this so uncomfortable. In an age when poverty is so evident in the UK, homelessness increasing and so many are stretching their finances to the limit just to get by, the message that life would be better if you spent more money needs to be checked. And Mouse is happy to do so. Poverty is crushing, but lavish spending brings only the shallowest and most fleeting form of happiness.
Ignore the adverts. Have a happy Christmas and find a way to show someone you love them.
The Church Mouse is an award winning blogger who tweets at @thechurchmouse
Thoughts on the latest trends, topics, news and culture from a Christian perspective.