(Warning: this column will bypass all hand-wringing discussion of the commercialisation of Christmas and its severance from religious meaning. Also, for the sake of full disclosure: I love Christmas, with unashamed, sentimental glee.)

Christmas: the advertiser's dream, you'd think. An annual festival that encourages bonhomie and spending; a word that within two tidy syllables injects twinkly warmth into any viewer's heart, and encourages the purchase of a range of unremarkable and yet overpriced objects. But I wonder if the ad team's collective heart plummets at the thought of having to come up with their 24th Tesco Christmas advert. How do you say the same thing yet again (buy your turkey at Tesco, or your Christmas will be probably less happy and successful than your neighbours' and you will be on Prozac by the new year) with any originality?

Judging by this year's televisual efforts, poor Christmas has suffered a linguistic assault. Disneyland suggests, for example, that with help from them you can experience "the biggest Christmas ever". How do you measure it? Size of tree? Number of family members offended?

Then there are the Christmas-dampeners, squishing the joy out of the word. Sony: "Get the VAT back. Happy Christmas." And DFS: "We can't guarantee it will be a white Christmas, but we can guarantee it will be an inexpensive Christmas."

But the worst, perhaps, are from companies who attempt to claim Christmas as their very own. Boots does this by pairing two catchphrases: "Well, it is Christmas. Only at Boots." Hate to break it to you, Boots, but I think others might have leaped aboard the Christmas train with you. The prize, though, goes to Pringles: their strange advert involves a stream of flying crisps and culminates in the slogan, "Merry Pringles!" Think of that creative process: "Let's replace Christmas with Pringles! It doesn't rhyme, it doesn't make sense, but by God, it whams our brand straight into the heart of the festive greeting." Time to reclaim it: Merry Christmas y'all. l

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 13 December 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The radical Jesus