I love almost everything about the Christmas season.
I listen to Christmas songs (with the exception of that awful one about shoes) from the moment the last Thanksgiving dish is clean. I rewatch any movie remotely considered “seasonal.” (That includes “Die Hard.”)
I even get a little misty about the commercials.
I know it's crass commercialism, but give me an exuberant rendition of “Carol of the Bells” over a grandma, a baby, and a puppy enjoying their new digital devices, and I still get a little Christmas thrill.
But one viewing of the new Kohl's Christmas commercial nearly drained all my holiday goodwill.
The ad (which can be viewed below) opens on a battlefield — the kind of sweeping shot I tend to associate with face-offs between orcs and the men of Gondor. Instead, we get a vast army of parents who, given the signal to charge, begin firing gifts into the army of children. There's even a trebuchet manned by grandmas on a floral couch.
The army of kids greedily grab the presents and howl in celebration. Then, there's an awkward moment when a member of the gift-receiving horde slowly looks up from her American Girl package and says:
“But we didn't get you anything.”
But never fear. In rides the magical Kohl's spokeswoman, inexplicably seated upon a rather small reindeer. She informs the assembled parents it's no problem they're pouring generosity into a greedy, covetous crowd of children. Why? Because they'll get reward dollars.
And then, everyone goes off to visit the nearby Kohl's, conveniently located on the edge of your nearest frozen lake.
I understand there may be parents for whom this commercial rings true. Maybe it does feel like Christmas is a time when you hurl gifts at a demanding horde of screaming children, only to be forgotten when it's your turn to open presents. Maybe the only reward you experience for giving Christmas gifts is the accumulation of discount dollars at a department store.
But if that's the case, let me suggest you take a step back and refocus your holiday energy.
This commercial glorifies all the worst elements of the holiday season: the blatant commercialism, the naked greed, the idea that relationships can be set with a price tag, the notion that Mom's only reward is shopping, that children see the holiday as nothing more than a gift grab, and that there's some kind of conflict inherent in the season.
How sad is it when even the commercials about giving your wife a luxury car or diamond necklace seem less materialistic?
None of this is what makes Christmas the best time of the year. Christmas is about trying to remember the names of Santa's reindeer and eating too many cookies. It's about finding ways to show the people who are closest to you just how much you care. And yes, it's about celebrating divine hope and love.
However, the people behind the Kohl's ad seem to feel that the spirit of Christmas is found in flinging gifts into the maw of an enormous army of “want.” Instead of encouraging the worst parts of the Christmas season, why don't they trust us to experience the joy of giving without reward? Or even without “reward dollars”?
Watch the ad from Kohl's below.