Littlewoods accused of ruining Christmas

Hundreds complain after TV advert shows Mum, rather than Santa, as the one who delivers

Every year it's the same: Millions of children wait for Santa to arrive when someone has to act the Christmas grinch by making the unkind suggestion that he does not exist.

Killjoy teachers and priests are most often to blame but this year it's one of the retailers that depend upon Christmas for a goodly portion of their annual takings.

Littlewoods landed in hot water with parents when they broadcast an advert purporting that far from Santa and his elves being thoroughly overworked in the rush to get ready for Christmas it is Mum who does all the present buying.

In the advert, children are seen performing in a Christmas play and singing about how it is Mum who has done all the shopping – and that she uses her credit card to pay for all the presents.

Hundreds of parents, some consoling distraught offspring, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority furious that Littlewoods appeared to cast doubt on the existence of the man in red.

Advertising standards officials, perhaps mindful of the ructions it might cause at home, were unwilling to be the arbiters of the 456 complaints and have allowed the advert to continue to be broadcast before the watershed.

"After careful consideration ASA council has decided that, as the ad did not make reference to Father Christmas or suggest Father Christmas did not exist, it was unlikely to cause distress to children and therefore we won't be launching an investigation," the regulator said. A Littlewoods spokesman denied the advert suggested Santa doesn't exist. Father Christmas was unavailable for comment.

The ASA decision had echoes of the controversy in 2009 when it was asked to rule on the existence of God when there were complaints about ads claiming: "There's probably no God." On that occasion the ASA wriggled out of a ruling by claiming the expression was "not capable of objective substantiation".

Previous rows over Santa include an Italian priest telling children in 2008 that Father Christmas was an invention.

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