The holiday season has begun, meaning companies will again try to get in on the Christmas craze.

Alex Ralston

I don’t claim to be the cheeriest person on the planet by any means. In fact, by way of natural disposition, I’m missing quite a bit of outward cheeriness. However, by the start of December, like most other people, my cynicism melts away and I wear a coat of joviality in preparation for the holidays.

I’ve been a big time fan of Christmas since I was a little kid. Probably starting around ten years of age, I really began to soak up everything related to Christmas. I gorged myself on television specials, classic Christmas movies, music, plays — I was on Christmas like red on white.

To a large extent, I’ve retained this Christmas cheer as I’ve grown older. As most people look at it today, Christmas is a celebration of happiness and benevolence, values not too far from those of the holiday’s namesake. While it sadly rarely surfaces before December, the spirit of giving is nothing to be undervalued; the same can be said for our collective yearly observance of life and good nature.

But as with all things in modern society, Christmas has been commoditized, and no longer do people solely focus on the Christmas spirit. Rather, the whole idea of Christmas has been suited to fit a capitalist culture, and its values have either been overlooked or perverted. Of course, this isn’t to say that people aren’t allowed to interpret the holiday how they like. However, the application of consumer culture to Christmas is something baffling and petty to me.

That is, all too often we see businesses trying to cash in on the holiday season. Companies will sell holiday-themed items such as egg nog or Christmas sweaters, and more often that, they will try to appeal to the public’s pathos with sentimental ad campaigns.

I usually like to look at these commercials with a skeptic eye, because usually the companies that advertise Christmas spirit have very little connection to it, and if they do, they’re stretching to find or display it.

For example, a Christmas-themed Toys R Us commercial has been showing in movie theaters around the nation recently. In the advertisement, a little boy chases his present, an RC car, from his Christmas tree to his front door, where his mother, a deployed US soldier, greets him after being away for what the audience can only assume is a long time. A touching embrace follows, and the company’s logo appears on the screen, along with some Christmas-themed slogan.

The commercial is so superficial and shallow, yet people will buy into it because of its sentimental content.

The first thing that comes to my mind is this: what does a returning soldier have to do with Toys R Us? Their advertising team thought by adding in a soldier (God bless America, so on and so forth), they could appeal to our sentimental sides and our patriotism. But honestly, this combination is so poor that a discerning eye can see that it’s just a lazy attempt to apply the Christmas spirit to a toy store and the U.S. army.

There have been a number of other ads that lack in creativity and abound in lazy tactics that feature Christmas themes, or what the advertisers and their audiences think are Christmas themes.

Two of my favorite attempts from the corporate sphere to Christmas-ize our world come from Petsmart and Budweiser.

If you ever go into Petsmart during the holiday season, you’ll notice that they take special care to promote their Christmas sweaters and costumes for pets. At first glance, it’s a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season.

But what do pets have to do with Christmas? Do pets even know who Jesus was? Do they celebrate peace on earth and goodwill? Can they even handle or appreciate concepts like this? No, but of course it makes sense to sell the Christmas goods because pet owners like to pretend their animals understand the holidays.

Budweiser’s ad campaign centers around the idea that Budweiser does Christmas right and celebrates it all out. What does beer have to do with Christmas? I really can’t remember the scene in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge whips out a cold brewsky and goes “all out,” learning the true meaning of Christmas through partying and social drinking.

Even Seaworld, one of the most despicable companies there is, had the nerve to put up a billboard calling families to celebrate at their Orlando location for Christmas. Forget about Blackfish, forget about all the scandals, just focus on the orca with the mistletoe over its blowhole.

I can’t ever turn my back on Christmas, though. I love the holiday mood. And sometimes the commercial media actually spreads some good themes or offers great gifts for people.

I understand that companies will naturally try to make consumerism synonymous with charity and giving, because it’s their job to sell their product in whatever way they can. But sometimes, their tactics just become lazy to the point that they foster ignorance.

And by the way, this isn’t a rant against capitalism. This is a rant against lame, predictable, misused, and illogical references to Christmas in consumer culture. I can’t pretend to not literally buy into Christmas spirit, but I can’t pretend that an orca whale cares about Christmas more than Seaworld does.