Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Twas in the Winter Sold

Whatever your religious beliefs, whether you have any, or whether you even celebrate this particular festival, the one thing that we all have to put up with at this time of year is the marketing.

Although we think of the commercialisation of the Season as something relatively recent, it's being going on for a long time. One of the best examples of this is the White Christmas. Are you sitting comfortably? If so, I'll begin our festive tale. You're not? Well, I'll still begin.

How We Got our White Christmas

In common with most people, I like to think that I'm immune from advertisers. Or at least, I like to believe that they couldn't sell me just anything. The advertisers on the other hand like a challenge, and in 1942, presumably as the result of a bet, someone decided to sell the idea of White ChristmasTM.

It was certainly a tall order. How do you get people enthusiastic about being stuck at airport terminals (Heathrow, this year's most popular winter destination), or stranded on frozen motorways (Get stuck into something different this Christmas), or spending Christmas without electricity (Give the Environment a gift this year and save on your bills)?

If you're going to advertise a snowy Winter Wonderland, there are all sorts of places you could go to make your advert. You could get pictures of Father Christmas roasting reindeer in Lapland, or skiers breaking legs in the Alps, but if you're like me you probably wouldn't think of going somewhere arid and sunny. Of course, this is why we're not rich advertising executives. No, they went to Hollywood.

Hollywood truly is a magical place. It helped that Hollywood was black and white 1942, since that made a White Christmas the brightest and most cheery thing on the silver screen. Bing crooned, and suddenly all the misery, death and destruction caused by extreme weather conditions was forgotten about. Every year people dreampt of a White Christmas. Of the sound of sleigh bells in the snow. Incidentally, if you sat by the fire and heard sleigh bells this Christmas, then either your double glazing wasn't working or you now have reindeer crap all over your house.

White Christmas: The Small Print

Being an advertising invention, White Christmas is like winter furniture sales - not what it seems. Just as the furniture people give you 50% off products that they've been selling at twice their proper value for the appropriate number of weeks at a representative store in somewhere no-one goes, like Wales, in the case of a White Christmas the devil's in the legal detail.

Here, for example, on Christmas Day there was snow all around, and everything was more or less some shade of white, but it wasn't a White Christmas. Even if it had been snowing, it might not have been a White Christmas. A drop of snow has to fall on the roof of the Meteorological Office in London for it to be an official White Christmas. That hasn't happened this century.

The reason for this definition, is of course, money. Every year Bing Crosby fans (victims?) lose thousands at the bookies betting on a White Christmas. And most years that elusive drop of snow fails to fall.

Which, considering how close we came this year, and how much misery our pre-festive snow caused us, and how much it's causing the US now, is probably not a bad thing.

Bah, Humbug!

Anyway, I hope you survived Christmas more or less intact. As usual, I had a quiet time, watched some Cypriot TV, ate a roast dinner ready meal washed down with a bottle of wine, and of course made a point of watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve - something I do every year. My Christmas properly began yesterday when Helena arrived to open her presents. Last night's rain washed all the snow away, so we're pretty much back to normal. If Bing had been British, he'd have sung "Wet Christmas" instead...