All I want for Christmas.


November 13, 2012 by bryannosaurusrex

Yes that’s right kids! Our favourite time of the year is upon us once again! We get off school and just like the majestic Atlantic salmon, migrate home for the fun, frolics, food, family and festivities (no such luck for the salmon, school….. of fish..…salmon is a fish….never mind). Come to think of it, salmon probably wasn’t a good comparison. They don’t eat on their migration, many of them get devoured by hungry bears on their way upriver, and if they’re lucky, at the end they mate themselves to death. As you will no doubt be with your relations, I sincerely hope your holiday migration is pretty much the opposite to that of our dear, tasty friend; the salmon.

On a more serious note, we get so caught up in the rush to celebrate the 25th of December, the birthday of so many of our favourite gods, (Horus, Osiris, Attis, Krishna, Zarathustra, Mithra, Hercules, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, Hermes, Bacchus, Prometheus, Jesus and perhaps most famously, Humphrey Bogart) we forget what Christmas is all about.


And what childhood could be complete without the Jawsome STREET SHARKS!

I honestly can’t remember a time when I was more excited than Christmas 1996. It saddens me to say that I have resigned myself to never being in such a state of excitement ever again. It was the most important toy based event of my young life.  For it was Christmas 1996 that I received the greatest, and to this day most prized of all my toys.

Beast Wars MEGATRON.


50% Tyrannosaurus-Rex.

50% Maniacal evil Robot.

100% The greatest toy ever made.

(Optimus Primal receives an honourable mention, my brother Michaelociraptor got that the very same Christmas.)

This brilliant toy clearly had a big impact on the young Bryannosaurus-Rex.But what makes that Christmas so memorable, and the toy I was given so special, is not how cool Megatron looks when he is in battle mode (and that’s pretty cool), it’s something else.


Anticipation is a big deal to us Dinosaur-Robot loving humans. It has been described as being the push and the pull in human motivation.  As Kelly (1955) wrote: “It is the future which tantalizes man, not the past. Always he reaches out to the future through the window of the present”. Nowhere is this truer than with children at Christmas. Christmas is without a doubt the most highly anticipated event of the year, and I’m sure you will all agree that many of our most vivid memories from childhood are from Christmas. Nitschk (2006) found that anticipation actually aids memory formation, and the more highly anticipated the event, the more memorable it will be.

What could be more highly anticipated than receiving gifts, while off school, from a magical bearded fat man AND having two weeks off to devote yourself entirely to playing with them?
There are so many unanswered questions, did Santa get my letter? (my younger cousins send Santa an e-mail) Was I good all year? More to the point, did Santa see me when I was bad? Even though I included clippings from the Argos catalogue of the toy in question to make sure, there is still a shadow of doubt as to whether or not Santa knows exactly which toy it is that I want. And with so many unanswered questions, there is anticipation.

I may claim not to like Christmas, and it’s true, I don’t; not like I used to anyway. I do love seeing my family, and I do enjoy seeing my younger cousins proudly parade their gifts around the house. But Christmas is not what it was. It’s not like the good old days; when toys were muscular mutated shark-men who were apparently related to each other, blood thirsty transforming dinosaur robots and facially scarred Special Forces roller-blade wearing sniper photographers with real karate kick action.

That’s not to say I hate Christmas, I don’t. I just don’t anticipate it as much as I did when I was younger. What I enjoy most about Christmas is being with my family and remembering what Christmas used to be like. Christmas transports me back to my childhood, which was an exceptionally happy one. That’s where nostalgia comes in.

Havlen and Holak (1991) found that nostalgia is basically magic wrapped in silk and dipped in chocolate. Especially when it comes to advertising. It hijacks our memories and emotions tied to past events, kidnaps them, keeps them in the well in the basement and uses them to make us feel a certain way about a certain product. Have you ever wondered why Christmas advertisements are never set in the future? Have you noticed how many companies’ Christmas campaigns are set in the past? Even the newest advertisements are set back in the 1900’s.

Come to think of it, how many companies have been using the same Christmas advertisements as far back as any of us care to remember? That’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they’re geniuses.

Exhibit A:

That Budweiser advertisement was nostalgic when it was made in 1987, and I still see it on TV every year.  Along with, of course, the classic of all classics.

Exhibit B:

What did you notice about that Coke advertisement? Watch it again.

That’s right, it’s the double.

Nostalgia and Anticipation in one masterful advertisement.

Holidays are comin’, Holidays are comin’. If that doesn’t build your anticipation for Christmas I don’t know what will (and you’re a horrible person).

If you remember Christmas, you remember the Coke Christmas trucks advertisement. You remember how good last Christmas was, and how much you love coke. BOOM nostalgia.

For that reason, it is one of the greatest advertisements of all time.


6 thoughts on “All I want for Christmas.

  1. macandzulu says:

    Off the point, I know, but negative anticipation (FEAR) is used and misused widely in advertising.

  2. Optimus Primal says:

    I’ve gone from thinking its to early for those Xmas adds on tv to anticipating Christmas from reading & watching this! Well played sir..

  3. I have to agree that as you get older Christmas no longer has the same effect of anticipation and excitement as it used to and becomes more about family. I think that’s why adverts like this! have become so popular, they depict the real stress behind Christmas rather than going for the usual anticipation and nostalgia angle, Its all about making Christmas easier for mums, who we all know do all the real work! Adverts aimed at children tend to build up the excitement of Christmas because they still believe in santa and so don’t realise it is actually hard work.

  4. I think this is a really insightful blog, and I think your conclusions should be sent to every company in the country!

    I really relate to your feelings of nostalgia for Christmas, and I also think that nostalgia in general is a neglected by advertisers.

    For example, one of my favourite adverts as a child was the Toys-R-Us advert. You know the one.

    I probably only got taken to Toys-R-Us once a year at most as a child, and I used to look forward to it so much. Even now I still recall how much I enjoyed going to the store at least once a week and it always makes me feel so happy.

    This advert was a crucial part of that experience. It built my anticipation and really made Toys-R-Us seem like the coolest place, and I think it’s an amazing song and jingle which all kids who saw that advert remember.

    That’s why I thought the advert they released last year was pretty lame:

    It’s not a patch on the old jingle, and I think Toys-R-Us are missing a trick by not using it – kids and their parents would both have cool memories when they heard it, and imagine if you heard your child singing the toys-r-us jingle – it would probably make you want to go there yourself! Come on kids!! Toys-R-Us time!!

  5. David Huang says:

    I’m not to sure with the purposes of this report it, as christmas is not really celebrated in china in terms of holidays i cannot relate to what bryan is saying. for me in china the most of all ads is the guinness ad, which people really like. but given that we always work there it is only the commercial side to it.

  6. This is a really fantastic blog, defiantly brings back the child in me! 😀

    Your not alone, i think many adults feel the same way as you do about Christmas. Christmas just isn’t the the same when your a boring old ‘responsible’ adult. I was in Smiths toy store in LLandudno earlier and WOW did it bring me back to my childhood, seeing ninja turtles, T-Rex dinosaurs, pogo sticks and strange scary baby dolls, was just awesome, i could have spent all day in there! It brought back so many happy nostalgic memories for me, memories of waking up at 3 in the morning to see if Santa had been and the pure excitement of tearing open all the wrapping paper as fast as you could to see the present/ toy inside. I wish i still had thoes feelings.
    But on a more important note, it is clear that the nostalgia and anticipation effect, is an extremely important and effect method in influencing consumer behaviour.But unfortunately in today’s consumer world, nostalgia has been slightly neglected in advertising. I too remember the Toy-R-Us advert and how magical it looked through tiny eyes, but i scan though today’s advertisements and i don’t find anything half as magical as that. Its true, a lot of the best advertisements are old ones, that’s why the coca cola one is so popular, you can not help but associate coco cola with Christmas.
    Research has shown that the use of nostalga taps into something fundamental about the human mind and consciousness. Every time we remember a past event it not only evokes the earlier memory, but can re-cast the past into a more pleasing “remembered” version.

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