Bah Humbug!

Christmas Tree by Elena Khmeleva / Private Collection
Christmas Tree by Elena Khmeleva / Private Collection

We've got spirit, how 'bout you?

Nothing says it's the holiday season like the annual house decorating extravaganza. Not even a £1000 electric bill can deter these die-hard Christmas champs. Articulated Santas, chasing lights, plastic woodland creatures, piped in sounds of the season, fake snow, laser light displays and even a living nativity scene made up of neighborhood children - you will not be outdone. Bring on the local news media!

Detail of a magazine advert for the American Cyanamid Company, 1950s / © The Advertising Archives
Detail of a magazine advert for the American Cyanamid Company, 1950s / © The Advertising Archives

Dear friends and family,

Another holiday tradition is the Christmas letter; created using clip art and grainy photos on the family computer. You send it to a combination of long-lost friends, family and often random acquaintances such as people you met traveling, past neighbors, old teachers and the guy who recently fixed the furnace. Subconsciously wanting to outdo the Joneses, you lovingly detail your family trip to Hawaii, your grandbaby's every first and your daughter's stint in the third world building latrines. Not wanting to sound like a braggert, you throw in a few deaths and diseases as well. Tis the season for cheer, hope and a little reality-check after all.

The Toyshop, 2000 by P.J. Crook / Private Collection
The Toyshop, 2000 by P.J. Crook / Private Collection

That 'IT' Gift

Despite your best effort trying to shield your child from toy advertisements and the toy aisle, your child will decide - along with every single child in America - that he must have the Talking Robot 3000 (the blue one, not the red). Ignoring this request will make for a tantrum-laden Christmas morning, so you dutifully stand in line at your local store to purchase it. After three hours waiting your turn, the store sells out of said robot leaving you and hundreds of other parents to buy Talking Robot 2000 with the hope that your child won't notice. Good luck!

Front cover of 'John Bull', December 1954 / Private Collection / © The Advertising Archives
Front cover of 'John Bull', December 1954 / Private Collection / © The Advertising Archives

Schlepping

v. - the act of moving tediously, or to, drag or trudge. Once you have the imposter robot, you head to three grocery stores before you find a turkey, one more to find fresh cranberries, still another to get the only kind of scotch Uncle Bob drinks and the mall to get a gift for your brother's new fiancee who no one knew about until an hour ago and who is coming to Christmas. Realizing, too late, that you forgot to fill up the tank, you run out of gas a mile away from home and have to channel your inner pack mule to get everything home. Uphill. In two feet of snow. 

The Inconvenience, 1826 by Auguste-Xavier Leprince / Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris / Roger Perrin
The Inconvenience, 1826 by Auguste-Xavier Leprince / Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris / Roger Perrin

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Getting there is half the fun, right? There are plenty of ways to get from point A to point B, although each mode of transport offers its own set of headaches. Take a flight, and you may be stuck sitting on the tarmac. Take the car, and you may sit in traffic. Take the train and you may not sit at all!  We must suffer from selective amnesia because next year we'll subject ourselves to the same ole' holiday travel dance all over again. Just make sure that when you pack for your trip, that you bring some Christmas spirit and a little bit of patience. The millions of other travelers are just as miserable as you.

Collecting the Ingredients, 2008 by William Richard Eyre / Private Collection
Collecting the Ingredients, 2008 by William Richard Eyre / Private Collection

Pressures of the Domestic Goddess

Not only does the outside of your house have to look its part, the inside of your house should be perfectly decorated with seasonal garland and the biggest tree that you can fit and it must smell like the perfect combination of sugary baked goods, pine and spices. To top off the perfectly decorated and scented home, you must think up and prepare a meal so fabulous that it will be the stuff of legends. Exotic ingredients, expertly rendered, out of the oven and on the table at exactly the same time. No matter that you are too exhausted to enjoy it - as long as everyone thinks you've outdone yourself, the holiday will be a success.

Demons Armed with Sticks from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald / Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France
Demons Armed with Sticks from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald / Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France

Love the ones you're with.

Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, Christmas is a time for family. The clan has heard that you are hosting Christmas this year, so everyone comes out of the woodwork: Sally and Bob's bratty brood, your gropey 'Uncle' George, your overbearing mother in-law, your overbearing mother, your man-child of a brother and his new fiancee and cousins Mike and Ben, who haven't spoken since the 2001 incident (which shall remain nameless).

Illustration from 'John Bull', 1950s / Private Collection / © The Advertising Archives
Illustration from 'John Bull', 1950s / Private Collection / © The Advertising Archives

No really, you shouldn't have!

Having to feign interest in god-awful sweater #10 from Aunt Sally is excruciating. Said sweater may or may not smell like moth balls and most likely comes without a receipt ensuring that it will live on in eternity in the back of your closet. If you are lucky enough to get a gift receipt, you'll also receive a self-inflicted dose of guilt as you return the woolen item. Lucky you if you get the dreaded holiday sweater, complete with Rudolph's cherubic face and a light-up nose, with strategically placed antlers! You'll be the star of your friend's next holiday sweater party.

The Concert by Georg Jakobides / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images
The Concert by Georg Jakobides / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jing-jang-gle...

Despite the Halloween costumes on clearance at your local department store, the Christmas serenade begins. Initially, beloved classics like Silent Night, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bell Rock and even the electronic stylings of Manheim Steamroller put a little spring in your step. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, after all. Walk into that store six weeks later and the high-pitched voices of a children's choir singing about the joys of Christmas, make you feel like you've stepped into some diabolical psychological experiment.

Front cover of 'John Bull', December 1955 / Private Collection / © The Advertising Archives
Front cover of 'John Bull', December 1955 / Private Collection / © The Advertising Archives

The End.

Despite the annoyances above, utter exhaustion and your body screaming out for detox, you find yourself a little depressed when you look at all the naked trees lying on the sidewalk for collection. To combat the post-holiday blues, get out your calendar and start counting the days until you can do it all over again.


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