The optics aren't great, but nobody should blame a vulnerable new mother, even a duchess married to a prince, for craving a quiet Christmas with her closest family, says Judith Woods
Deck the halls, crack open the Baileys, the new John Lewis advert has been unveiled. Let the festivities commence! I'm not sure why, when or how a department store was given custody of Christmas, but ever since Coca-Cola sexed up Father Christmas in red, it's become just another endearing quirk of capitalism.
Still, John Lewis is never knowingly undersold and its latest commercial, featuring an accident-prone dragon and a little girl with Titian hair, is gold standard. The ad, Excitable Edgar, stars a cartoonish dragon and screams "pre-school merchandising opportunity" so loudly, I was prepared to hate it.
But it's genuinely funny and Horrible Histories-ironic. Only a churl could fail to smile. What warms the cockles, however, isn't the cutesy dragon but the Brueghelesque depiction of a village celebrating a perfectly simple and simply perfect Renaissance Christmas.
No PlayStations. No 5G. No e-cards. Just battery-free fun outdoors: crusty loaves fresh from the bakery, children skating on the river, homemade garlands prettifying the wooden houses and the community sitting at a feast. It was filmed in Budapest, but the echoes of Christmas past are everywhere. Despite the crass commercialisation, Dec 25 is not about presents, but presence.
Being with family is central; there's something especially tender about the very young and the very old spending precious idle days together. The Duke of Edinburgh is 98. The Queen is 93, and I think that's why there's a bit of upset about the fact the Sussexes won't be spending Christmas with the Royal family at Sandringham this year.
Meghan wants to be with her mother Doria for son Archie's first Christmas? Entirely understandable and reasonable. By all accounts, Meghan has had a tough year. She is struggling under the media spotlight, feels isolated and wants time out. Nothing wrong with that ? But the optics aren't great, are they? Two empty spaces in the line-up, after talk of a brotherly estrangement are far from ideal.
Given Her Majesty is said to support their decision, we should, too. If we're honest, we the public fear Harry and Meghan are snubbing us, not her. But nobody should blame a vulnerable new mother, even a duchess married to a prince, for craving a quiet Christmas with her very closest family.
If John Lewis made Meghan's choice into a Christmas advert, it would have every last one of us weeping on our sofas.