We must be getting close to December 25th if the only thing I can see on my newsfeed is a bizarre story about a man on the moon. Of course, I’m talking about the new John Lewis commercial, but that’s only one of many more.
The aim of this type of advertising is to raise sales. Maybe we should expect that around Christmas, but certainly not all celebrations are as deserving of this treatment. The classic art of rebranding and commercialism conquers all, whether it’s somewhat justified or not.
This is certainly the case with Valentine’s Day. Before 1913, it was simply a ‘feast-day’ for Christianity, with only mere connotations of love. Despite that, just this year alone the so-called ‘festival of love’ generated over £8.5 billion, with over 180 million cards exchanged worldwide. A bombardment of hearts and a cesspool of pink is all it takes to sell a heap of unexceptional tat. I only suspect Valentine’s is there to create extra revenue between Christmas and Easter - then again I’m probably just bitter from past experience.
Then we have the dentist’s nemesis, Hallowe’en – because what’s scarier than tooth decay? Though there was evidence of this festival as early as the 1800s, it only became a secular holiday during the 1920s. Last year, it led to £5 billion worth of sales – with over £500 million spent on costumes alone. Solely down to obnoxious trick-or-treaters, people that would never normally go near chocolate or sweets now buy them.
Our last group of questionable celebrations is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Mother’s Day was first glorified in 1908 and Father’s Day, later, in 1910. It would appear that the greeting card companies took two years to realise they missed a trick. These two dates generate over £23 billion. That is an obscene amount of money, but in all honesty a more worthwhile cause than the odd rose or a dodgy skeleton mask. However, according to www.statisticbrain.com, the gift most mothers wanted was something homemade.
Why do we do it? Why do we buy the same arguably pointless items at higher prices year after year, even though none of us really needs them?
One reason I think is convention. As soon as something is established as a social norm, people feel obliged to participate – for one reason or another. For instance, as much as it’s annoying to join in with Hallowe’en, a child crying is something much worse. Especially when you factor in the glare only a toddler can give you. The whole ‘it’s all a scam’ excuse never goes down too well on Valentine’s Day either, especially when you haven’t bought your special someone anything.
Generally, I think everyone enjoys looking forward to something. I couldn’t possibly say how many times I’ve heard ‘it’s blank days until Christmas’ just in the last week.
Maybe I should be a bit more accepting and get into the spirit of it all. Perhaps I just need to book myself some retail therapy sessions first.
-- Patrick Gembis is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds