For a Christmas as Magical as Your First

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I’m trying to recollect what my first memory of Christmas actually is…

Spending Christmas in Devon with my grandparents as a child initially comes to mind. My granny had knitted all five of her granddaughters a stocking. Already an ample size, this knitted tardis would enchantingly (for me anyway) stretch further and further, requiring my Mum and Dad to keep filling it with a host of mini presents so as not to look forlorn on Christmas morning. Said stockings would be greedily devoured while my sisters and I curled up at the base of our Grandparents bed, before breakfast of proper old fashioned thick-cut bacon, sausages, and grilled tomatoes served straight from the cosy Rayburn. Delicious.

Then, of course, there are the firsts at Christmas that come later in life. The first time you spend Christmas with a family that is not directly your own, where the established traditions of your beloved’s family start to unfold, and you are invited to share in their celebrations together. 

The first time you host a Christmas celebration of your own (planning the oven rotation system with military precision).  

 

All of these Christmases are vividly memorable to me, but I don’t think there was ever a thunderbolt moment (or, in John Lewis’ case, a rainbow fuelled crash landing) of the magic of the first Christmas for me. 

For example, a few years ago, my Mum started a new tradition with my sisters, and I. Gone are the days of endlessly filling the knitted stockings, replaced instead with the gift of a single tree decoration each year. We have had everything from delightfully delicate cutwork metal bells to a small scene of the holy family. Each year I take out these talismans of Christmas magic and hang them on my tree with great joy and anticipation for the festive season ahead. 

In the hotly anticipated John Lewis Christmas ad of 2021, we are presented with the portrayal of Christmas magic through the encounters of an alien (Skye) experiencing Christmas for the first time under the tutelage of a little boy (Nathan). Nathan shares with his’ #unexpectedguest’ the joys of; Christmas tree lights, how to eat a mince pie, Christmas films and (importantly for John Lewis) gift-giving. All wrapped up as the alien flies away, under the tagline: ‘For a Christmas as magical as your first’. 

 

In a post-pandemic world, where former John Lewis ads filled with fluffy characters and short-lived commercial opportunities could feel trite and inconsiderate, this advert displaces our reality just enough to suspend our disbelief and pay attention to the scene unfolding before us. From that first foreboding pulsating sound, we are intrigued… then (of course) comes a healthy serving of that one John Lewis ad staple none of us were willing to live without. The heartwarming soundtrack. This year supplied by Lola Young covering Electric Dreams: “We’ll always be together, however far it seems”,’ she softly sings. 

As a self-confessed cry baby, I was surprised not to shed one single tear watching this year’s effort. On first viewing, I could only really see the most cliche of Christmas references jumbled in with a story about an alien. My second thought was, ‘I wonder if I can stream E.T on Prime… oh, yes, Prime… I really must buy that birthday present, quick!’ (A response I’m sure John Lewis would rather I directed their way).

That being said, through writing this blog post (and single-handedly upping the Youtube view count by approx 1m), I have begun to see hidden gems I didn’t quite grasp during my premiere experience. The joy of sharing, a hint of a child-like first romance and the pain of saying goodbye to loved ones. However, from a quick straw poll, I’m not sure many others will be investing such effort to arrive at this same epiphany…

John Lewis has chosen to push ‘#unexpectedguest’ as their key campaign message. For me, it doesn’t really provide a shortcut to any of the good stuff to be found in this ad. Perhaps a better option would have been to pay more attention to the lyrics “We’ll always be together, however far it seems” given the current state of the nation.

For my money, the most compelling part was the brilliantly simple tagline: ‘For a Christmas as magical as your first’. I’ll happily go out shopping whilst reliving a highlights reel of all my past Christmas firsts, hoping my purchases will help to create more magical moments this year and beyond. 

 

We are looking forward to next year’s ad John Lewis, Happy Holidays!