The Christmas season is fast approaching, there’s only seven Fridays left until Christmas day as I write this! In fact, you know it’s here when the new John Lewis TV advert comes out. By the time you read this, it will have been played dozens of times and everyone will be talking about it. The whole campaign in previous years has cost up to £7 million, which includes in-store advertising, prime time TV slots, billboards, and newspapers, whilst the advert itself has cost up to £1 million to produce. Such is the impact of the advert – and this will be the 9th year John Lewis has done this – that the YouTube video alone had 13 million views last year. Although arguably receiving the most hype and anticipation, they are not the only ones spending such huge amounts of money on advertising during the festive season. Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, and even supermarket chains such as Aldi and Lidl also get in on the act. These adverts are so good that they’re often better than the TV programmes themselves that they are scheduled within.
On one level it gets us into the Christmas spirit, engaging our fuzzy emotions and making us feel all warm and cuddly inside, thinking about time with close friends and family, winding down and celebrating. Yet on another, it’s an all out assault on our wallets. December is the time when many retailers generate most of their annual revenue and make the most profits. Why else would you be willing to stake £7 million on one 7-week advertising campaign unless you are going to get a substantial return on the investment?
In an earlier article I wrote about Christmas being all about presents when I was just a kid, though even as adults we can suddenly switch on auto-pilot Christmas mode. Just last week at my in-laws, we (as in everyone else but me) were talking about presents this year and perhaps doing a ‘Secret Santa’. This is where everyone involved is randomly assigned someone to buy a present for anonymously, so that nobody knows who their secret Santa is. We set a modest budget of £5- £10 and then we go looking for a thoughtful gift. We don’t stop to question that Christmas shouldn’t be about presents because it’s so ingrained into our culture that to not be involved is to be considered abnormal. I don’t think Christmas should be about presents. But I also don’t think Christmas shouldn’t be about presents. I think Christmas shouldn’t only be about presents. At least not when what we are really trying to do is show love. Here are some practical pointers to think about as you start thinking about buying and giving this Christmas:
Can You Afford It?
I have met people who really cannot afford to be buying presents and yet it’s a totally non-negotiable part of their budget. Even if it’s not out of a sense of duty (not a good reason), but out of a heart of generosity (a good reason), it is never a good idea to get into debt over it. There are people who are paying off their credit cards months into the new year because they’ve accumulated so much debt just buying presents they cannot afford.
Did You Put Thought Into It?
Assuming that we buy presents for people because we care about them, how much thought has gone into your choice of gift? It’s not the size of the price tag that determines its worth to the person you’re buying it for, it’s the size of the heart and the thoughtfulness behind the gift. But don’t mistake sound logic for thoughtfulness. It’s only after watching comedy videos where the husband buys the wife a much needed hairdryer, or vacuum cleaner, or slow cooker and then gets into trouble for it, that I learned not to do the same! Here’s a rule of thumb (mostly directed to the men out there), buy her what she wants, not what she needs.
Illogical I know, but trust me on this one. Blessed To Be A Blessing If you’re fortunate enough to be able to give generously this Christmas to those you love and care about, will you consider giving to a cause that expands your boundaries? Every year at my church, we collect a first fruits offering at the beginning of December. This fund is then used to set up new projects and initiatives that would make a difference to the wider community. The impact of this money is huge, with many people’s lives being affected as a result. However, another consequence of this offering is that it reminds me to be thankful for what I have, and releases me from the false security that money can give me. There are many options out there – homeless shelters, children’s charities, local churches and community centres etc. Do you feel blessed enough to be a special blessing to others?
聖誕節快要到了。執筆之際，還有七個星期五就到聖誕了！你知道嗎? 高級百貨公司John Lewis的聖誕廣告剛剛出爐。當你讀到這篇文章時，廣告想必已被播放超過幾十次了，相信也會成為城中熱話。去年John Lewis公司的聖誕商品廣告成本總支出為7百萬英鎊，當中包括了店內佈置宣傳、黃金時段的廣告播放、大型廣告版、報章……廣告本身的製作成本為一百萬左右，其帶來的迴響也是巨大的。這是John Lewis公司第九年以類似的廣告策略主攻聖誕銷售－－該公司單是去年的You Tube影片就獲得了1,300萬次的點擊收看。
雖然可以說，John Lewis公司的聖誕廣告是云云商店中，獲得最多炒作，也是人們最為期待的，但他們並不是唯一一家在節日期間投資如此巨額製作廣告的公司。 Debenhams、馬莎百貨，甚至連鎖超市如Aldi和Lidl也不甘落後。這些廣告都是精心製作的，吸引程度絕不遜於電視節目本身。
在早前我寫了一篇文章，提到對小時候的我而言，聖誕節只是和禮物有關。但即使成年後，我們也常突然自動切換到「聖誕節模式」。就在上週，在我公婆的家中，大家（除了我以外）都在談論著今年的禮物，有人提出「秘密聖誕老人(Secret Santa)」的遊戲 ：每個人都參與隨機抽籤，決定要以匿名方式為哪一位送禮，也就是說，沒有人會知道自己的「秘密聖誕老人」是誰。我們還同意了禮物的價格在£ 5- £ 10之內，在有限的預算內，尋找一份貼心的禮物。