From green to red for the Xmas message

SO the first signs of Christmas have already appeared in Comet country – first spotted more than three months before the big day. And not a moment too soon as far as those set to reap the phenomenal financial rewards are concerned. They want to be certain

SO the first signs of Christmas have already appeared in Comet country - first spotted more than three months before the big day.

And not a moment too soon as far as those set to reap the phenomenal financial rewards are concerned. They want to be certain they're going to squeeze every last penny possible out of people.

With three months of sustained and carefully, cleverly planned advertising and product placement, shops and restaurants are poised, ready to pounce and reel in their customers and their all important cash.

It's frightening how people are so easily sucked into spending their hard-earned cash, or how readily they are willing to rack up a staggering amount of debt on their credit cards.

Sadly it's some of the UK's poorest families, who borrow money from doorstep lenders to cover the cost of Christmas, who will suffer the most, as Christmas continues to remain firmly in the clutches of the commercial industry.

In reality, Christmas has been a victim of the commercial world for decades.

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Until 1931, Father Christmas was traditionally dressed in green.

In 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned Haddon Sunblom to produce an advert extolling the virtues of the drink in the winter months. The advert depicted Father Christmas in the red and white livery of the Coca-Cola brand.

This advert started the rot, until Father Christmas became synonymous with wearing red. The fact he was once dressed in green has become a dim and distant memory.

The commercial pressure to buy presents and the emphasis on consuming lots of food and drink means the true meaning of Christmas has been lost, and was lost long ago.

Ask children today what Christmas is about and I bet the majority say presents. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is no longer the focal point, but an hour-long inconvenience for those who even bother to go to church on Christmas Day.

So for many it's time to start the massive shopping exercise and join other stressed out shoppers set to buy those pre-packaged and impersonal gift sets.

And when that headache's over, it's time to spend the next six months trying to shovel your way out of debt.

Christmas has lost its specialness because it is in our lives for a quarter of the year, and because the focal point of celebrating the birth of Jesus and spending time with family and friends has been lost.

As people struggle to cope in the current financial climate, the sad truth is that Christmas as it should be costs nothing and is priceless.

I CANNOT believe The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has even considered advising the Government to downgrade ecstasy from a Class A drug to Class B.

While ecstasy may not be as dangerous as cocaine or heroin, it is unpredictable and it kills about 50 people every year.

Downgrading the drug to Class B would be inherently stupid, giving the message that ecstasy is safer than first thought.

I have no doubt it will encourage some people to use it.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has already announced plans to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug, instead of Class C. Putting ecstasy and cannabis on a par with each other is ridiculous.

What exactly does The Advisory Council think will be achieved by reclassifying ecstasy? That's what I really can't work out.

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