06 December 2017
“Okay so BBC One have just won Christmas advert of 2017.”
In the great British tradition of completely kicking off over Christmas advertising campaigns, many took offence to the image.
Beloved national institution and unmatched purveyors of steak bakes, iced buns and sausage rolls, Greggs, has been in the news lately – and not because another publication made the just and noble decision to further sing the company’s praises in the press.
No, the reason Greggs is making headlines is more left-field than a chicken katsu bake and a few stamps short of a free cup of watery coffee. Earlier this week, the chain promoted its soon to be released advent calendar with a picture of a charming nativity scene. However, the baby Jesus had been swapped out for a sausage roll.
The calendar, which costs roughly the same amount as the entire inventory of a Greggs franchise (£24), offers daily gifts that can be exchanged for baked goods. A £5 gift card sits behind door 24, meaning that anyone frequenting Greggs on Christmas Eve is in for a real treat. Some calendars even contain a surprise £25 voucher which, if you were to receive one, would almost certainly be the best day of your life. Especially if you like Greggs.
But we digress.
In the great British tradition of completely kicking off over Christmas advertising campaigns, many took offence to the mixture of pork, seasoning and rusk – artfully wrapped in crumbly pastry – replacing our Jesus.
It’s understandable. While the sausage roll can perform its own brand of restorative miracles on the taste buds of a hungry nation, it didn’t exactly die for our sins. Even so, it seems a bit much to react with this level outrage to such a familiar steak slice of British humour.
We Brits are, you see, literally nothing if not allowed to poke fun at our institutions. After all, we invented political satire, fell in love with Father Ted, campaigned for Boaty McBoatface and mocked the tabloid press with a headline like this:
— Sunday Sport (@thesundaysport) March 29, 2014
The Greggs promotion may be a little on the nose, but the humour hints at a wider truth about our willingness to let everyone in on the joke, without harming those who don’t get it. Some of us can strop about the ad on Twitter. A minority can say it wouldn’t fly with people of other faiths (not that they’ve asked them). But by and large, most of us, Christian or otherwise, are laughing into our festive bakes.
This Christmas, Christians will still celebrate the religious meaning of the holiday, whatever advertising Greggs does.
This Christmas, most of the population will tuck into a roast Turkey and unwrap presents, even though over half of it claims to be non-religious.
And this Christmas, almost all of us, whether we have a faith or none at all, will enjoy the day off from work.
Especially the Greggs PR team, who are no doubt having a stressful week: ‘We’re really sorry to have caused any offence,’ a spokeswoman said. ‘This was never our intention.’
The Greggs advent calendar will go on sale on 20 November.