A History Channel special the other day reported that Santa has pitched everything from department stores to cigarettes since he first started showing up in advertisements however many years ago. There are countless other gimmicks out there as well, like the big red bow atop a luxury vehicle or carolers heralding the latest sale or gadget.
New families hang Hallmark ornaments on the tree, and Santa, with glowing cheeks and a twinkle in his eye, manages to sneak that much-hoped-for toy under it.
One TV ad on heavy rotation last year featured a woman rocking her baby. When her husband comes in and whispers, "Is she sleeping?" The woman replies: "Why are you up, it's 2 a.m.?"
"It's 2 a.m. Christmas morning. It's our first Christmas as a family. I couldn't wait," he says, unveiling a box containing a flashy ring.
"Do you think she'll remember this Christmas?" the new father says of his baby.
"I know I will," the mother whispers.
When I told everyone here in the office that this commercial -- viewed last year when I myself was at home with a new baby -- made me cry every time I saw it, I had a few people laughing so hard they were in tears themselves.
Still others (who shall remain nameless) urged me to write this week's column about "What drives me crazy about the holidays."
Clearly, Christmas isn't ever what it's cracked up to be in the TV spots or classic holiday specials. No guardian angel ever comes down to show us how wonderful life is, and our bosses usually don't have a spiritual awakening that moves them to send over anonymous turkey feasts or double last year's holiday bonuses.
Instead, we stress about finding (and affording) the perfect gifts, struggle with tape and wrapping paper and fight crowds at the last minute when we fail -- like we always say we'll never do again -- to beat the before-Christmas rush at the malls.
We end up eating too much, and seeing a little too much of loved ones.
And of course, we are reminded of those less fortunate, though we sometimes feel powerless to help.
A lot of the time, we just look forward to it all being over so we can relax again.
It's easy to see why some folks are cynical -- or Scrooge-like, if you will.
I guess it's best to look to the corny commercials and classic holiday films and cartoons for inspiration where we can, but take them with a grain of salt when they inspire more scoffs than warm and fuzzy feelings.
Being bombarded with idealistic -- or absurd -- visions of the holidays each season at least gives us something to laugh about. Or, if you're like I was last year, in the middle of a postpartum roller coaster ride, it even manages to tug a little at your heartstrings.
• Contact Jessica Wiant at firstname.lastname@example.org.