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21 December 2017

I love vlogmas – it celebrates the banality and familiarity of Christmas

The Youtubers’ Christmas tradition is a chance to turn off your brain and relax.

By Jason Murugesu

This December, a demonic plastic doll named Aisha has made me burst out laughing repeatedly.

The doll, which looks like an angel and is designed to be placed on top of a Christmas tree, has been making sporadic appearances during “vlogmas” videos by my favourite YouTubers, Rose and Rosie.

Vlogmas is the season in which bloggers post YouTube videos about their lives each day in the month of December. It forces YouTubers to be their most creative, and is an example of how so many form strong, lasting relationships with their viewers. 

Siobhan Baker, a 22-year-old from Norwich who is also a Rose and Rosie fan, says that “vlogmas in general is just a way to spend your evenings in the lead up to Christmas feeling festive”. It is essentially the YouTuber version of advent.

In one video, Rose realises the puzzle that her wife Rosie has spent most of the month completing has a piece missing. Seeing that something is hidden beneath the puzzle, Rose begins to dismantle it and finds a Polaroid. 

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The picture is a horrifying selfie of Aisha. Scrawled in ink below, it says: “SHE WILL BE TAKEN”. 

What makes this so funny is not the silliness of a plastic doll haunting a couple whose videos I have been watching for four years – but instead, its innocuous inclusion in a a recording which is ostensibly about their normal routine in December. It followed a day in which the pair went to Asda and walked their dog, Wilma, in the park. 

Inside jokes like this can be years in the making, with YouTubers treating their viewers like friends. They make little sense if you’re not in the know. And they are built over time as you get to know someone’s sense of humour. 

As a queer married couple, Rose and Rosie in particular present a version of Christmas rarely seen on mainstream TV. Baker notes that “Christmas can be quite a difficult time for a lot of queer people… but they invite you to join in with their festivities and make you feel less alone”.

Vlogmas is somehow even more intimate than vlogging itself, due to the emotional weight associated with Christmas. YouTubers to whom viewers closely relate provide a sense of support that just a few years ago was non-existent.

It helps that vlogmas videos are usually around 12 minutes long – just enough time to enjoy a cup a tea. And in a world in which one of this year’s most anticipated Christmas specials is Black Mirror, which requires you to put effort into ensuring you don’t miss a subtle allusion, vlogmas is is one of the few chances to turn off your brain and relax. 

In a way vlogmas videos work in a very similar way to those sitcom Christmas specials – such as The Royal Family or Gavin and Stacey – around which families used to gather. That familiarity it is part of the appeal for Daisy Francis, a 21-year-old from Manchester, when she watches the undisputed queen of vlogmas, Zoella. “I’ve been watching a while so I know all her friends and the people in the vlogs now so I’m kind of committed,” she says.

Zoella, who uploads half-hour videos every day in December, perhaps blurs the line between TV and YouTube more than anyone else. A professionally produced look at her extravagant lifestyle, her vlogmas videos even have their own opening title sequence. But they still retain the seemingly naturalistic elements that have helped vloggers become so popular. In one vlogmas entry, she starts by screeching excitedly to her boyfriend: “Ten days to Christmas!”

Lucy Moon, a British YouTuber who tried the tradition for the first time this year, says it’s this anticipation of Christmas that gives vlogmas its appeal. She compares it to the way “you look forward to opening your advent calendar door each day”.

“I think that there’s something so personal about people sharing such a highly emotional time of their year with others – they’re excited, they’re stressed, they’re happy and anxious all at once,” she adds.

Vlogmas creates a unique level of intimacy because it depicts the everyday activities that underpin the celebrations. You follow people going to the supermarket, going to their doctor’s appointments, and the stresses of buying presents for friends and family – the sort of things that rarely feature on TV or Instagram, or in films. We get to see what someone else’s Christmas actually looks like, right down to the detail. More than any other medium, vlogmas reveals and celebrates the banality and familiarity of Christmas. 

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