"Win Christmas!" said the title of the email from my local radio station. I didn't even open the email - I knew what they meant. I guess there'd be a competition to win some money to spend on presents, perhaps a turkey and a Christmas tree, and if you're really unlucky, the station's DJs might come round and carol-sing at your doorstep, recording the entire process.
Of course the actual grand prize of Christmas was packed and gift-wrapped in a manger 2,000 years ago. Since then, everything else is window-dressing. I'm sure the on-air contest was a generous one, but the real contest isn't one played out on a radio station, but played out between radio stations, and TV stations, and adverts, and shop windows: who can be the most Christmassy? Whose Christmas give-aways are the biggest? Whose festivities are the most festive, who's got the biggest turkey, who's got the best celebs wishing the rest of us 'Happy Christmas'?
Culture is cyclical though. The trend was for TV commercials to 'go large' on Christmas - with celebrities decking the halls with boughs and boughs of holly. So that's when companies like John Lewis reinvented themselves by going small at Christmas. So the favourite festive ads are now relatively sedate, with a gentle acoustic soundtrack and a lovely story about a bear or a penguin or a snowman meeting a snowwoman.
Christmas-with-all-the-trimmings has become trimmed-back-Christmas. The trend of Christmas trees, for example, is now for the simplistic, rather than the over-decorated. Christmas hits today lean towards straightforward singer-songwriters, rather than the overblown throw-everything-at-the-wall anthems of yore from Wizzard and Slade. John Lewis knows we don't want a dozen Santa-suited soap stars can-canning - we want a simple tale of love, even if it is about a computer-generated penguin.
Yet strip it back even further and you'll find the simplest Christmas of all - a baby born homeless to a refugee family: no fanfare, no soundtrack, not even a Christmas lunch. While I'm pulling crackers and unwrapping prezzies, I'll be thinking back to that first NoÃ«l, the foundation of all that's followed.
"Win Christmas"? We've all already won it, no purchase necessary, see Bible for details.
Paul Kerensa is a comedian and also a scriptwriter for Not Going Out, Miranda, and various other shows.