Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Faith Works 11-29-08
Jeff Gill

Old Fashioned Means Many Things

Last week many of us sang the Thanksgiving classics, “We Gather Together” and “Now Thank We All Our God” and “Come, Ye Thankful People Come.”

These aren’t songs the ad business folks have figured out how to co-opt.

They not only come with a fair amount of theological content, but they swing with a heavy load of archaic imagery – tares cast out, grain put in a garner, “first the blade and then the ear,” before the whole shebang “doth appear” to “lay down in store.”


Even those among us who actually live their lives around a harvest season and know what a harvest home looks like (usually needs sweeping daily) don’t call any building on their farmstead a garner, and tare weight is a cryptic label on a scale readout unless you’re in charge of setting pricing.

Never mind, because this time of year makes singing about grain and corn and sheaves feel right at home in our harvest homes, cornucopia stuffed with fruits and gourds as a centerpiece until the Christmas decorations come out.

Thanks to the election and the near monopolization of the airwaves by political spots, we didn’t start getting slammed with Christmas (koff) Holiday season ads until, oh, Nov. 5. Which is about two months later than it’s been the last couple years.

The Lovely Wife and I have noticed that there’s a bit of a theme to the ads on TV this year, or at least in the tube we’ve seen – nostalgia.

Traditional scenes, and classic music, with a focus on family and fun and snow that seems to us a shift from what had become (in this household’s perspective, at least) a rolling attempt to out-cool the competition during the “Holiday (koff) season.” Edgy music, surrealism with red and green tones, and a general effort to stretch the boundaries of you might still consider “oh, an ad to buy stuff for Christmas.”

What we’re seeing now is a wide range of commericals that all aim at a fairly narrow band of 70’s era musical variety show sets, all of whom have an Andy Williams clone in them wearing a striking sweater (yes, that trend is his fault – age 80, still wearing them in Branson) that stands out against a stark white set, among other colorful people mainly organized into recognizable family groups (young couple, young family, older couple with a teen, elderly couple beaming at them all).

Christmas music for some years now has been “officially” limited to “Deck the Halls,” “Ring Christmas Bells (sans words),” and “Jingle Bells,” so I understand why some ad agencies went with 50’s finger snapping hipness just to get out of that box, but this year we’ve climbed back into the box and put a big honking red ribbon on it.

Is this the economy? If so, how does that logic flow? Are ad buyers less interested in taking risks in a tanking economy? Does the TV ad trend mean that traditional is safe (well, duh), and it pays?

It does seem safe to guess that all sorts of families, traditional and non-traditional, will be looking for safe, cheap, simple ways to celebrate the season in the way they’re used to, or remember being used to, or would like to learn how to do in the first place.

Thursday night is the downtown Newark “Sights and Sounds” tour, which you can learn more about at A family can learn a little about local traditions around Advent (starting tomorrow!) and the Christmas season for very few dollars and much enjoyment, with the Courthouse Square lights anchoring it all for free.

Also at no cost is the Granville Candlelight Walking Tour, next Saturday Dec. 6 with various events from 1:00 pm through 9:00 pm all over the village – see for sites and times of various musical and performance venues. Most all are free, but lots of chances to spend money if you want!

And that Saturday is also “Christmas in the County” down at Infirmary Mound Park from 6:00 pm through the evening, no cost but much merriment for all, including the legendary Christmas pickle.

Is your family thinking along more traditional lines this Christmas season? Are those of other faith traditions doing things differently in their different observances through the end of 2008? Drop me a line and let me know; I’d love to share those ideas with our community.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your traditions at

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