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The Boy and the Piano: John Lewis Christmas Advert 2018

Memories and thoughtful gifts

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect on the importance of memories and consider an alternative approach to the consumerism of Christmas.

Preparation and materials


  1. Have Slide 1 displayed as the students enter the room.

  2. Ask the students whether they have seen any of the Christmas adverts that are appearing on our screens. There is always a lot of debate about which is the best, which is the most moving and so on.

    Optional: you may wish to show some famous Christmas adverts from recent years.

  3. Point out that one of the most eagerly awaited adverts each year is often the John Lewis Christmas advert. The first John Lewis Christmas advert was produced in 2007.

    Optional: you may wish to show the first John Lewis Christmas advert.

  4. Ask the students whether they have seen this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert, which includes footage of the life of Sir Elton John.

    Show the YouTube video ‘John Lewis & Partners Christmas Ad 2018 - #EltonJohnLewis’.

  5. In the advert, we see Elton John reminiscing about some of the key moments of his career and in his journey as a musician. His memories include performing to huge crowds; playing smaller, more intimate gigs; taking part in a school production and the fond memory of being given his first piano as a boy. Memories are important.

  6. Show Slide 2.

    The advert ends with the tagline ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’, inviting us to look at the things in our lives that are really important, the things that really matter. The advert invites us to consider the power of a gift and how a gift can even change the course of someone’s life.

  7. Ask the students, What is most important to us this Christmas?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    This Christmas, we have a choice.

    - Do we want to prioritise consuming and buying, or making memories and bringing joy?
    - What is most important to us: getting lots of gifts, or making memories with others?

  8. Of course, it is fun to receive a well-chosen gift. It can also make us very happy when we give someone a present that we have carefully considered and purchased for them. However, if the gift becomes more important than the giver, there is an issue.

    Long after the gift itself has worn out, broken or been outgrown, we can still treasure the memories that the moment of giving it created. We can remember the people we shared that experience with. These memories last a long time. It is much more difficult to grow out of a memory than a jumper, toy or game!

  9. Point out that as we look back on our lives, it is precious to recall happy memories, as Elton John does in the advert. Pianos are expensive, but making memories does not need to cost much at all. A shared joke, a board game played together and time spent chatting and relaxing with others can all make for memories that cost very little.

  10. A lot of emphasis is put upon presents and packaging at Christmas, but maybe this year, we should take time to reflect on whether our giving is good for the environment. Just over a year ago, an episode of Blue Planet 2 documented the impact that plastic waste is having on our environment.

    Show Slide 3.

  11. Lets think about the amount of packaging and waste that Christmas gifts and celebrations can generate. Could we be more responsible about the environment this Christmas?

    During 2018, many people and organisations have made changes with the aim of helping the environment:

    - Many bars and restaurants now offer paper straws instead of plastic ones, or encourage people to manage without one.
    - More people are using reusable bags instead of single-use carrier bags.
    - In January 2018, microbeads in products such as exfoliating face scrubs and toothpastes were banned from being included in cosmetic products manufactured in the UK after it was found that they added to the build-up of plastic that was harming wildlife.

    Show Slide 4

  12. This years John Lewis Christmas advert doesn’t directly tackle these issues, but it does aim to shift our focus from buying presents for the sake of it towards thinking more carefully about our gifts and how to create memories.

Time for reflection

Show Slide 5.

A good motto for this years John Lewis Christmas advert - and in fact, for every aspect of Christmas - would be ‘Less stuff . . . more meaning!’

Say to the students, ‘I wonder whether it is the piano itself, or the memories that the piano helps to create, that is most important to Elton John.’

Remind the students that while we consider how memories can be precious, we also need to remember that for some people, Christmas can be a hard time. People who have lost a loved one may find Christmas difficult as they remember the times they spent together in the past. People who are lonely this Christmas or who have sad or upsetting memories may find this time of year hard.

So, as we consider these things, lets pause to reflect on the ways in which we can focus less on stuff and more on making memories that last.

Lets also think about those for whom Christmas is a difficult time and be conscious of thinking about others this Christmas. Let’s aim to bring peace and joy.

Now lets take a moment to reflect on how this years John Lewis Christmas advert affects us and what it has to teach us.

Dear God,
As we begin to prepare for Christmas and see signs of Christmas in the shops and in adverts all around us,
We ask for wisdom to make choices that prioritize people and our world, rather than having more and more stuff for ourselves.
We ask you to help us to value our relationships and to be able to build happy memories with others.
We ask you to bless and support anyone who feels the burden of loneliness or those who find that Christmas is not full of happy memories.
Help us to be kind and thoughtful to others.
Help us to bring joy and peace to those around us.


Any Christmas song.

Publication date: December 2018   (Vol.20 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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