John Lewis, Sainsbury's, all the Christmas adverts leave me cold
PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 November 2019
Rachel Moore says Christmas adverts present a false image of real life
It's only November 14 but Christmas adverts are already sending me bonkers.
Their portrayal of home perfection, inflated expectations and relaxed family get-togethers provoke a sense of intense irritation.
Not only are they FAR TOO EARLY, pushing of spending for spending's sake on sacks of tat that will end up in a landfill by February, getting into debt to prove affection for everyone else, and making a few days last nearly two months of excess, they are crass and insensitive.
The smug, cosy, perfect family Christmas portrayed is not reality for so many children, who sit watching these ads.
In the latest statistics, there were more than 2.5 million separated families in Great Britain, including 3.9 million children.
Nearly four million children, about a quarter of the nation's total, comparing the advertising world's view of Christmas to their own, spent between parents and sets of families.
How must the children who yearn for a 'mending' of their broken families feel being bombarded with images of what they have lost, facing being in the middle of their estranged parents' row over where they are at Christmas.
The Dunelm ad of the family of six, who buy all their Christmas trinkets at Dunelm and their four lovely children dress the table together, without fighting, breaking anything on Christmas Eve, choosing where everyone will sit, is particularly irksome. It's not their fault. It's simply not real. Or if it is, it's certainly not typical.
Not to the blended families that don't work, the children facing a Boxing Day in McDonald's with their father estranged from their mother, Christmas Day with stepbrothers and sisters they loathe, and that's before we think of all the children living in poverty and in low-income homes, whose Christmas Day is even further removed from the images they are seeing every day.
This is the time when people are planning (dreading their Christmas arrangements). Who will have Grandma? Whose turn is it to go where? Excuses to be invented to swerve the more gruesome relatives, sucking up the reality that two Christmas dinners will have to be eaten to fit in to other people's plans.
Then there are those who are expected to host - and pay - for Christmas year in, year out and feel compelled to be Christmas martyrs.
I don't often find myself on the same page as Harry and Meghan, but their decision to duck out of the family Christmas with the Queen at Sandringham this year and do their own thing for their son Archie's first Christmas deserves some respect.
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It's not outrageous. It's a young family deciding what is right for them.
Kicking what's "traditional" and always the same for a family into touch takes some front and determination. But where are the Christmas rules stating doing what's right for you and your little family is wrong?
The media stated that Harry had spent every Christmas at Sandringham, apart from 2012 when he was on active service in Afghanistan. So he's done it every year - it's time for a change.
But "doing what's right for me" isn't the Christmas way. Everything needs to be done to please someone else. It's about sacrifice. Goodwill is one thing, wearing a hair shirt simply to avoid conflict or voicing a choice is another, because it's often all about kow-towing to someone else's selfishness.
Christmas is a time when people are poised to take offence and everyone wants a piece of everyone else.
Last year, after 22 years in my kitchen at Christmas waiting on family hand and foot, and the first Christmas since my father's death, we did different and took off to Morocco for 10 days, leaving Christmas far behind, taking a hot air balloon ride over the desert on Christmas morning and cycling around Marrakesh on Boxing Day.
We had a marvellous time, pedalling around the mad souks with a young Dutch man, who was travelling solo to "avoid my family at Christmas".
Our escape didn't go down well in all quarters - who would cook the turkey this year and provide an open all-hours service?
Doing different was interpreted as selfishness after the most difficult year.
In our 10 days, we met so many other people getting away from tricky family situations, holidaying alone for a much-needed break, couples needing an escape, families wanting a change of scene and those who arrived after travelling on Christmas Day because it was cheaper.
There was a sense of rebelliousness that we had butted heads with tradition and won.
Times change and people have a choice. Having grown-up children means a watershed time to start changing Christmas expectations and traditions.
Pandering to others' expectations isn't altruistic - it can be masochistic, especially if it means you always miss out and everyone else gets their way.
Doing different - helping out with the homeless, spending Christmas in the sun, spending it on your own with box sets and tubs of Quality Street, or hiking in the peaks or walking the beautiful and deserted Norfolk coast - is not wrong and is no reason for guilt.
And if you heap guilt on for making different decisions for whatever reason, shame on you. Who is really being selfish?