Culture

This Year's Star-studded British Christmas Adverts

Janet McTeer stars as Mrs. Claus in this holiday spot. (Image: Marks & Spencer/RKCR/Y&R)

Christmas advertisements are highly anticipated and closely scrutinized in the UK. So we took a look at this year's offerings and found a celebrity trend. Check out which familiar faces and voices contributed their talents as retail spokespersons and conveyors of holiday cheer.

This Heathrow Ad is the Warm Fuzzy We All Need This Holiday Season

These adorable bears star in the best holiday ad of 2016. (Photo: Heathrow Media Centre)

It's probably not an overstatement to say that, for much of the world, 2016 has been kind of a rough year. And as it (finally) starts to winds down, it's okay to admit that we all maybe need a little extra cuteness to get us through these last few weeks. 

Enter, Heathrow Airport. No, not the way you think, though it'd be pretty great if we all suddenly woke up with round-trip tickets to London as some kind of "Congrats on surviving a pretty awful year" cosmic reward. (Hint, hint, universe.) Instead, Heathrow has actually decided to make its first ever holiday commercial about itself. And, though you may think this is a weird idea, the final product is completely adorable. And provides a much-needed emotional balm for our frayed spirits.

Telly Tour of the UK Episode 2: Wales

Stella (Ruth Jones) looks out over her South Wales village of Pontyberry. (Image credit: BBC Worldwide)

Do you dream of taking a grand tour of the United Kingdom, but don't have the cash on hand to make the trip? Join our blogger Carmen as she traverses this island that enchants us while presenting examples of television series set in each region of the country. You'll get a taste for the diverse natural beauty, history, landmarks and people of each unique area and no passports are required. This time we venture to Wales with stops in Cardiff, Barry and the South Wales Valleys.

Telly Tour of the UK Episode 1: The South West

The Cornwall coast plays a big part in "Poldark". (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE)

Do you dream of taking a grand tour of the United Kingdom, but don't have the cash on hand to make the trip? Join our blogger Carmen as she traverses this island that enchants us while presenting examples of television series set in each region of the country. You'll get a taste for the diverse natural beauty, history, landmarks and people of each unique area and no passports are required. Our first destination is The South West of England with stops in Cornwall, Dorset and Bristol.

10 Fantastic Facts about the Marvelous Mr. Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was born 100 years ago this week. You probably know him as a brilliant writer of children's stories, but did you know about his shadowy career during World War II or that he helped invent a life-saving piece of medical equipment? 

Check out our list of fantastic facts about the man and the legacy of his work.

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare: Things that Might Surprise The Bard

When William Shakespeare was born 451 years ago, I’m quite certain there was no way of knowing just how famous this child would become. I mean, we all believe our children are special and capable of great things, but just imagine one of your offspring being celebrated as the greatest writer in the English language four centuries after his or her death.

Shakespeare was versatile as both a poet and a playwright. His works, still constantly in production to this day, are the most frequently staged plays in the history of the theater.

Not only that, but think about how difficult it is to keep a literary career going during one’s lifetime let alone to continue to sell books long after the author has passed away. In a Forbes article from 2005, it was estimated that Shakespeare sells 10 million copies of his plays worldwide making a conservative $15 million annually. Alas, no family members are collecting on those royalties these days.

Just in case these monetary facts about his longevity fail to astound The Bard of Stratford-on-Avon, perhaps the following examples about his continuing influence upon literature would make Will sit up and take notice.

Telly Romance: Grand Gestures for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

When you think “romance”, the UK probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. (Though they’re obviously moving up in that department since a recent poll found British accents were considered the sexiest in the world.) Admittedly the Brits may not have the same reputation for seduction and passion as the French or Italians, for example. But then I’d take an awkward, heartfelt romantic gesture over a smooth operator who thinks he’s God’s gift to women any day.

I’ve compiled a few romantic telly moments that I believe clearly illustrate my point. While not all of them are appropriate for a Valentine’s Day surprise, each one evokes a sense of putting yourself (or in some situations, your friends) out there without knowing for sure what the reaction will be. Please enjoy the love!

Christmas Telly: A British Holiday Tradition

In America we get plenty of holiday TV programming. There’s usually one musical variety effort each year be it Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson or the hottest country artist at the moment. ABC Family broadcasts the 25 Days of Christmas, the Hallmark Channel features heartwarming Christmas fare (non-stop for weeks) and of course no one should forget the 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon. Say it with me, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

In my youth you had three networks and one chance to see A Charlie Brown Christmas. Miss it and you were out of luck; there was certainly no DVR, let alone VHS! They were called “specials” for a reason. Am I starting to sound like a cantankerous old lady because I’m really not? I’m on Twitter and everything.

Let’s meander back to the subject at hand - Christmas telly. Despite the volume of shows out there intended to keep our spirits merry and bright (or perhaps because of that very fact) Americans might get nostalgic, but they don’t seem to get too excited about the Christmas TV schedules. In the UK, however, it’s a whole different animal – a tradition in and of itself.

Watch Sainsbury’s Tear-Jerker of a Holiday Ad

Remember this adorable, sniffle-inducing John Lewis holiday advert featuring a boy, his penguin and a lesson on the meaning of friendship? Remember how it seemed like there was no way that any other Christmas commercial could possibly top its heartwarming perfection?

Well, it turns out that prediction might have been a bit premature. It would seem that UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has decided to also go for the emotional jugular this year, with an five-Kleenex-alarm holiday ad built around the Christmas Truce of 1914 , a series of unofficial cessations of hostilities that occurred along portions of the Western Front during World War I. German and Allied soldiers, hearing Christmas hymns being sung, both stepped out of the trenches and met in no man’s land that day to exchange gifts, take pictures, sing hymns and, supposedly, play football (soccer, to us Americans).

Fair warning: You probably want to make sure you have some tissues handy before you push play.

Is This New John Lewis Spot the Best Holiday Advert Ever?

Seeing as it’s only early November, it seems as though it should be premature to crown an ultimate winner in the race for this year’s best holiday ad, but it’s time for some real talk.

Literally nothing is going to be better than this completely adorable advert from British department store chain John Lewis. Nothing.

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