CREDIT: Image Source.
Christmas would not be the same without the traditional Christmas Monkey. You haven’t heard? A round-up of the Christmas images reflecting the trends of Christmas past, present and future
1. Christmas Dinner Sociology 101
Christmas is about tradition and every family has some version of Mum’s Christmas pudding/Pumpkin pie/Trifle. With busy lives, families often don’t spend as much time sharing meals together as in the past. With stats and research from groups such as the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) highlighting the psychological value of the family dinner, it’s no surprise that Christmas images of the family meal exert a huge emotional pull, also reflected in sales of pictures of the different generations prepping traditional Christmas fare.
2. Father Christmas, Step-Father Christmas, and Fathers Christmas
Family arrangements in the West have become more diverse since the heyday of ‘the cereal packet family’. The nuclear unit (two parents with children) is still the dominant arrangement, but there is more diversity than ever before: cohabiting couples, same-sex parents, stepparents, and half-siblings. This can make for a thoroughly modern, and often unorthodox, Christmas family gathering.
Tim Walker in London’s Independent newspaper observes that ‘for an increasing number of families, the festive season is a moment … to tuck into a nut roast with their stepmums, half-brothers or granddad’s gay partner.’ This trend is reflected in Christmas images in this picture of a gay couple on Christmas morning. Another strange by-product of modern families, with kids parents’ having different partners, some parents are having two or three Christmas dinners. Which brings us to the Christmas indigestion trend….
3. I’m Dreaming of a ‘Real’ Christmas Just Like the ones…
Christmas never looks authentic, always popping with gaudy good cheer. That’s the point of Christmas. Visual excess. Yet even Christmas is not immune from the ‘authenticity’ trend (bearing in mind the ‘authentic’ is simply a different kind of image-making). And for good reasons. Economically difficult times means some consumers want to escape into the richly colorful Christmas fantasy, other consumers want imagery that reflects more sober times. The image above captures the eccentric spectacle of Christmas while grounding it in a spartan landscape. Whether in a boom or in a recession, the spirit of Christmas lives on even as a sole candy stick in a bare landscape.
4. Surfing Santa
While those in the Southern Hemisphere can enjoy Christmas dinner on the barbie, increasingly everyone else can have a taste of that too. In an age of (relatively) cheap air travel, more people are forsaking home for a sunny Christmas abroad. Image-makers are documenting the trend, showing sun-seekers choosing sand over snow, BBQ over a roast, making Santa swap a sleigh for a surf-board. Santa don’t surf?
5. Craft Christmas
‘Craft’ has been a dominant buzzword over the last five years, partly fuelled by e-commerce sites such as Etsy, which enable designers and others to go direct to market with what would previously have been personal projects. In an age dominated by the anxiety around powerful, impersonal forces such as global financial institutions, the handmade is a sign of trustworthiness and honest toil. Trends in Christmas images have been subtly influenced by this wider social context. And when we’re working harder and longer, like Angels, sometimes you just need to take a load off.
6. Blue-Collar Santa
Are we at all ambivalent about Santa? (Spoiler Alert) Do we still believe, I mean really believe? In an age of widespread disbelief and mistrust of institutions, is Santa wholly immune? Santa is timeless. Even demand for images such as Santa on a laptop don’t actually demystify Santa but talk to consumers’ desire to bring Santa up to date. Where Santa has become a bit more real is when he taps into the dynamic of harder times. So the image of Santa commuting, or hauling presents around the suburbs speaks to the idea of the hard-working blue-collar Santa.
7. White Christmas – the New Minimalism
The counter-trend for those who feel smothered in tinsel and knee deep in baubles is the White Christmas. Not the White Christmas of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, but the White Christmas of the graphic designer. There has been a pick up in demand in recent years for ‘Christmas Minimalism’. When we’re so hectic at work all-year-round, the appeal for the no-mess, no-fuss, wipe-clean Christmas is easy to see. And a minimalist Christmas doesn’t mean without feeling. Industrial designer Sebastian Bergne’s minimalist exploration of colour for his Nativity set has an emotional power because it isn’t figurative.
8. The Traditional Christmas Monkey
There is a whole subset of Christmas images that revolve around animals, and we’re not talking donkeys in stables or reindeer with sleighs. What Christmas would be truly Christmas without monkeys I hear you ask? Yes in the mid-20th Century when we sent monkeys into space we also liked dressing them up as humans. As this image suggests, Christmas was a time for giving, spending time with family and celebrating the 99 per cent DNA we share with our chimpanzee cousins.
9. The Ultimate Christmas Marketing Weapon
“One Hundred times Bart, ‘Puppies Are Not For Christmas.’” True, Animal charities warn against buying a puppy at Christmas but who can resist buying from a puppy at Christmas? Not intrinsically Christmassy, no puppies in the stable at Bethlehem. Photos of puppies are hugely popular among art buyers simply because these puppy-dog eyes seal the deal. At Christmas time, they can get the Scroogiest Scrooge to buy anything.
Over recent years, charities working in the developing world have encouraged people to sponsor animals for deprived Third World communities. It’s part of what has been called Yuleanthropy – ethical gift giving. The humble goat has joined the pantheon of Christmas images, as the goat can provide milk to drink and sell, and goat manure can be used as fertilizer to grow vegetables. And the goat may have offspring. Some Animal organisations and Charities have suggested there are more efficient ways of alleviating Third World poverty through charitable giving, but images of animals to exert an emotional pull for people who may not otherwise consider gifting.
11. Naked Christmas
A close companion of the minimalist White Christmas is the Naked Christmas. Clear from your mind the image of a pot-bellied Santa relaxing with milk and cookies, the Naked Christmas is about bringing a little bit of nature into your home, and leaving it undressed, as it were. While the rich colours of traditional Christmas images speak to idea of the glittery romance of Christmas, Naked Christmas images feel fresh and improvised.
12. The Christmas Switcheroo
The Christmas ad Water-Cooler moment was provided in the UK by retailer John Lewis. It was partly because their TV spot featured an easy-listening version of a song by legendary 1980s miserabilists, The Smiths, which caused a stir among middle-aged Smiths fans – but also because of the ad’s narrative twist. The desperately impatient child is counting down the days till Christmas not to get his presents but so he can give a charmingly badly wrapped Christmas present to his parents. So look at this picture above. See the girl staring lovingly at her present. Now look at the girl and imagine her staring at her exquisitely wrapped gift (girls are better wrappers, or at least that’s what I told my younger sister as I palmed off the chore of wrapping). A gift for her parents. See what John Lewis did? Christmas is about giving not receiving, a simple change of perspective.
See more Christmas stock photos at Image Source.