What December means to me

Hello December

It’s that time again. The chill I feel in my bones, the mist I make when I breathe, and the frost which sleeps on my car, all tells me that we have turned the twelfth corner of 2014. We have entered the final chapter of the year, and who knows what will be written on its pages. November arrived in a flurry of fallen leaves and promptly left again. Which leaves us only with December, and all its glory. I’m not one of those people who has my Christmas tree up by now, listens only to Christmas albums on repeat, and has the presents already wrapped and under said tree. Far from it. Having said that, I am incredibly partial to some festive cheer and I feel content knowing that Christmas is on its way. Why? For me, it’s all about family.

When I properly moved to Cardiff 4 years ago I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my family very often. It’s a sacrifice I made to pursue a career good enough to be able to live very comfortably. However, that career was short-lived. I was miserable. What is the point in living very comfortably when, most of the time, you just don’t feel happy? I digress. Having lived away from my family for so long, it’s times like December when I feel a bubbling excitement. Not just because I will soon be eating Christmas ham while sipping bucks fizz, devouring a big fat turkey, and stuffing myself with as many pigs in blankets as I can possibly stomach, but because I will be going home. They say it’s where the heart is.

This year, I will be spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day at Olly’s parents’ and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to feel when the time comes. It will be the first time I wake up on Christmas morning without my mum, dad and sister. I might even cry a little. The voice inside is saying ‘You’re 26 woman! Grow up!’ That may be true. But for me, the charm of Christmas is about being a child again. I want to hold on to everything I loved about that time of year when I was young. Sleeping in the same room as my sister on Christmas Eve and opening our stockings together in the early hours. A Christmas morning walk. Trying to de-stress my mum. Sorting the presents under the tree into piles for the family. Dressing the dogs in their bows and bells and laughing as they help us unwrap. Listening to the same tape (yes, tape) of Christmas tunes over and over while we eat lunch as a big family. Playing board games long into the evening. Curling into the sofa to read. Laughing. Laughing lots.

I don’t want things to change. I know they have to, but I don’t want them to. I don’t have either grandpas around any more, my uncle, aunt and cousins are gone, and one of our beloved border collies passed away earlier this year. I’m in a relationship and it’s only fair that we split Christmases between our equivalent families. My sister is also now in a relationship which means she will be doing the same. What I have to come to terms with, is that it isn’t Christmas itself which makes anything special. It is simply being surrounded by the people I love. It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is. Things will inevitably be different. The important thing is that I try and embrace those differences.

This year, December will be about remembering the ones I have lost, smiling at the memories, loving the ones I still have, making new memories, chatting to my parents late into the night, reading, writing, walking, eating, laughing. And wondering what 2015 might have in store.

What does December mean to you?

Meet Monty the penguin – nice one John Lewis

Monty 3

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when people complain at those who mention Christmas is on its way, the time when you have to choose your menu for the work Christmas meal, the time when Secret Santa’s are organised, and the time when the Christmas adverts come out. For me, I really feel the Christmas spirit when I see the Coca Cola advert, but I haven’t yet. What I have seen however is John Lewis’ new gift to the nation. And it involves a penguin. Called Monty. A PENGUIN CALLED MONTY.

John Lewis always have a touch of magic about their Christmas adverts. I particularly enjoyed last year’s animation (which involved a bear and a hare – see a theme there?) because the concept was so clever. If you don’t recall, the bear always missed Christmas because he was hibernating, so the hare – being a wonderful friend – bought him an alarm clock to go off on Christmas Day, so he could spend it with the other animals. Touching, personal, SIMPLE.

I came in to work this morning and my boss played the new advert to a few of us – I work for an advertising agency, so it’s not unusual to do this. With a soundtrack by Tom Odell, it starts off featuring Pingu, so naturally I was hooked from the off. I used to love that show. But what I love most about the John Lewis adverts is the story which they tell, this time through the eyes of a young boy. He has a best friend, Monty the penguin, who he goes everywhere with. At the start I wondered where the advert was going – and what it had to do with John Lewis – but it all unfolds beautifully. By the end, my eyes were a little glassy. I am not ashamed to admit it. My boss took the piss, but was equally as complimentary about the advert as I was. And it only cost John Lewis £1 million to make!

Advertising which has an emotional effect is, in my opinion, the most powerful. Add to that humour, a cute kid, an even more cute animal, and you have a winning formula. Animals, or ‘cute looking things’ like Zingy are particular popular – look what Aleksandr the Compare the Market meercat did? Some clever advertising created a whole new business stream.

Having said that, some charities really play on emotional advertising and I often feel uncomfortable watching those. They are designed to make you feel bad, whereas I challenge anyone not to feel at least a little uplifted by John Lewis’ new offering. It’s just an advert, but it unlocks feelings in me. Perhaps I’m emotionally vulnerable, in a way, but I like that. I like being able to feel. And everyone loves a good story.

Other company adverts which have really impressed me of late are Marks & Spencer – serious food porn, nailed – and Lidl, which is doing an impressive job of changing perceptions. Lidl have just released their new Christmas advert which is in the link.

What kind of adverts get you engaged? What do you think of the Christmas offerings so far? And, most importantly, how much do you love Monty?