The annual seasonal debate about whether gross commercialisation has eclipsed the religious significance of Christmas — and whether this is such a bad thing — once again got under way this week.
Usually, it’s pitched as a sort of power struggle for seasonal supremacy between Christ Himself and that interloper Santa Claus, with his sack of goodies and relentless ho-ho-hoing.
Interestingly, this week, a new contender entered the ring. Some clues as to his identity: he’s round, he’s pink and he’s extremely chewy.
Percy Pig is the face of the M&S festive advertising campaign, which, while likely to be popular with fans of gummy sweets, does not immediately suggest a threat to a 2,000-year-old global religion.
But concerned Christians have been expressing dismay about how M&S have been promoting their pig.
In-store, you can buy money gift wallets which feature Percy in a Santa hat and the slogan “Merry Pigmas”.
It’s the slogan some people find offensive. That substitution of the word ‘pig’ for ‘Christ’.
On the face of it, this would strike many people as a bit of trivial nit-picking. I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t have singled it out myself as something to get annoyed about. But, then, I don’t do religion of any kind.
And the pig certainly isn’t the first in the frame for hogging seasonal wishes. You can buy any amount of tat with slogans ranging from Merry Dogmas, Catmas and even — I’ve checked — Merry Goatmas. You can get T-shirts wishing for a Merry Winemas. I’m pretty certain you can get just about any consumer product made merry for promotional purposes.
So, Merry Pigmas — much fuss about nothing? Depends how you look at it.
One upset Christian customer demands to know whether the store chain “would replace the name of another religion’s prophet with ‘pig’ for a laugh?”
Put like that, you can see why the M&S PR department may have its work cut out. Some profits from the cards will go to a slew of charities. Even so...
Who is primarily at fault here, a commercial entity promoting one of their best-selling lines and — in the eyes of some consumers — trampling over religious sensitivities in the process? Or are the churches to blame for allowing the religious aspect of the festival to be elbowed aside by big business and small pink pigs?
The problem for the churches is that it may be a bit late in the day now for putting the Christ back in Christmas, as they would like to see it. The commercialisation of the season of peace, love and goodwill to all men, goes back some centuries. It’s just in recent decades that it’s all got a bit overboard.
A little history here: the early Christians did not celebrate Christmas. It just gradually merged with a pagan festival and, down the years, attracted the trees, the turkey, the cards and the present-buying frenzy we now associate with the day.
Christmas wasn’t popular with the Puritans. Town criers used to go around crying, “No Christmas, No Christmas,” on Christmas Eve, much like the current government’s advisory committee on Covid.
Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was this week warning there “shouldn’t be much snogging under the mistletoe” this year. Ms Coffey may be descended from Oliver Cromwell.
Fuelled by marketing teams which see the season as the prime time of the year to flog us their wares, Christmas is now, more or less, a bacchanalia of binge-buying, binge-eating, binge-drinking and binge-whinging about what’s on the telly. The churches don’t really get much of a look-in.
True, despite all the excess, there’s still that cosy family tradition of an annual get-together. The carol singers still do their rounds. The faithful still do Christmas worship. But Brand Christmas belongs to big business.
That’s not to say they couldn’t be just a wee bit more sensitive when it comes to selling the season. Even those of us who aren’t of religious bent can still respect the feelings of those who see the occasion as being about more than liberal consumption of M&S festive fare.
“Merry Pigmas”, when you think about it in those terms, is indeed a bit near the knuckle.
But this week’s row isn’t going to make the business world take stock of how it could, more tastefully, market a religious festival. Why should it?
It’s now generally accepted that, for most of us, Christmas is just about pigging out.
Victory could hurt Meghan
Could this week’s court victory for Meghan Markle turn out to be a case of winning the battle but losing the PR war?
The Appeal Court found that, in publishing a letter to her father, the Mail on Sunday breached Ms Markle’s privacy.
During the hearing, however, details emerged of how she’d worded that letter in case it was leaked. She called her father “daddy” because she felt that this might “pull at the heartstrings”.
Not her da’s heartstrings. The public’s. A bit cynical, no? She may have won her case, but I’m not sure Meghan has done her image any favours.
DUP’s usual suspects miss the point again
Three DUP MPs — the usual suspects, Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley and Paul Girvan — this week voted against new measures to combat Omicron, including the wearing of face coverings indoors.
I don’t know of anybody who actually likes wearing a mask. I’m not even sure how effective it is. But the thing is that many vulnerable people do believe it’s vital to their safety. I wear a mask happily if it makes other people feel safer. Sammy etc should remember it’s not just about them.
No shortage of clowns in global politics
French President Emmanuel Macron has referred to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “a clown”. Accurate possibly, but undiplomatic nonetheless.
The barb comes in a week of mud-slinging over the post-Brexit provision of licences for French fishermen. Meanwhile in the English Channel, 27 men, women and children perished as two governments clashed over how to deal with the refugee crisis. “Clown” doesn’t begin to cover the leaders on either side. They are beyond shameful, the lot of them.