…and like Pavlov’s dogs we unconsciously respond to the sound of sleigh bells…

Abattoirs play classical music over loudspeakers as the animals are led to be slaughtered; the music provides a calming environment and stops them panicking and putting up a struggle when they realise the fate that awaits them at the end of the queue.

In shops they play “Now that’s what I call Christmas”.

It’s that time of year again when we find ourselves sweatily stumbling around shopping centres, queuing in stuffy cramped lines, and spending too long wondering whether it’s really worth all the effort to take our coats off. Unbeknownst to us we are being conditioned, calmed, and our cautious fiscal policies of the past year are being slowly peeled away by the diarrhoeic sound being pumped into our ears.

All it needs is Shaky’s pension pot of a festive pop song playing over the tannoy and the retailer can sit back and watch the cash flow. Wheel out Jona Lewie, give Slade their annual royalties, and let Bono melodramatically embarrass himself all over again and we just can’t stop ourselves spending money.

Those awkward rest bites of silence between Chris De Burgh and Aled Jones or at the end of the CD as it tracks back to John and Yoko are a retailer’s nightmare. Without the sound of Christmas in our ears we might rest our arms; momentarily put our bags down as we wipe the sweat from our brows and the drool from our mouths  our consciousness might return. In those brief seconds of silence we might dangerously begin to recognise something is wrong; despite our aching feet and  shoulders we might get a tight feeling in our stomachs as we realise our bank balance is quietly weeping in a corner somewhere. We might even consider stopping spending money.

Thankfully it only takes the chin, chin, chin of a sleigh bell – the retailers’ favourite sound after the bleeping of a line of packed self-service checkouts – to bring our minds back to the job in hand. That hypnotic rhythm and mesmerising tempo – chin, chin, chin keeps us  merrily bleep, bleep, bleeping away

Sleigh bells are the musical cue absolutely guaranteed to simultaneously tug at our heart and purse strings; fond, tearful memories of Christmases past smear Vaseline over our eyes as the binds on our wallets are carefully unlaced without us noticing. It only takes the first chords from “Simply having a wonderful Christmastime” and even I can feel my pennies begin to burn a hole in my pocket.

Fear not, Maria Carey is here to take our minds off that gas bill with her cheeky flirty little ditty; here’s Elton John gently taking us by the elbow and encouraging us to “Step back into Christmas” before we get chance to worry about the mortgage. If all else fails Noddy Holder is always there to give us a much needed kick up the Christmas bum and then it’s only a matter of time before we are all ‘pa rum pa pum puming’ our way through the novelty sock selection; a potential disaster averted as the money continues to bleed from our sweaty palms.

Every year we ignore that Damoclean sword of austerity hanging above our heads; we throw off the manacles of recession that have bound us, dust off our credit and store cards and go all ‘Viv Nicholson’. Before we know it we are unwittingly releasing our grasp on reality and of our carefully managed budgets as fast as we might undo our belts and loosen our inhibitions after the office Christmas party; and sadly like Pavlov’s dogs we unconsciously respond to the sound of sleigh bells in the only way we know how to.

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