Christmas is near. If I had missed the lights, the mistletoe, or the snow, the advertising alone would have been sufficient seasonal notice.
Every fall, the first TV ad for a table saw or a cordless drill catches me by surprise. Then I remember: it's that time of year again, the run-up to the Christmas retail frenzy. Actors we last met just before Father's Day dust themselves off for another inspiring and expensive gift-giving moment. Exclusive watches: because he's worth it; costly diamonds: priceless, just as she is.
Even chocolate, which sells itself any other time of the year, can't be left in peace at Christmas. Gold-wrapped confections cascade down crystal-goblet pyramids, glittering all the way. The glasses must be plastic (they don't break under this onslaught), but they look like crystal under the lights. They must be glued together, too, but we're not supposed to think about how the effect is created. We're supposed to go out and buy chocolates, driven by undeniable desire.
Is anyone else tired of the intensity and unreality of it all? The perfect rooms, the not-a-hair-out-of-place actors with their capped-teeth smiles. The precocious children, the wise old people, the spunky mother of two in a designer hand-knit sweater, just off the toboggan hill.
Don't misunderstand: I enjoy the season, I truly do. I love the way the stores look after dark. I love the twinkly lights on trees, eaves, balconies. I even love to buy Christmas gifts. That moment of finding the right present for someone is a delight. I just hate being exhorted to buy, with techniques so sophisticated and yet so clumsy.
It reminds me again that in this, as in many other aspects of life, less is more. In a world in which everyone is shouting at me, what catches my attention is a whisper. With products shoved in my face, what captivates my interest is something glimpsed out of the corner of my eye.
How odd that even all this advertising excess reminds us of the power of the Christmas message - the quiet, unassuming arrival in our world of hope and love.
• Isabel Gibson is a management consultant and freelance writer in Ottawa.