Why the John Lewis Christmas advert made me cry

Monty the Penguin flew onto my laptop screen about 20 minutes ago and Twitter is alight with photos of him. However, I'm choosing to publish this about 2 weeks after the premiere of the advert as I don't want to spoil it for anyone. By now, everybody in the English-speaking world (and then some) must have seen it so let's talk about Why the John Lewis Christmas advert made me cry.
Let me start by saying I have a long history with John Lewis adverts, beginning with 2011's The Long Wait. That video touched me so much that I still watch it on YouTube and it still makes me cry every single time. I even downloaded that version of the song for my Christmas playlist. 2012's The Journey also made me cry, but only the first couple of times. It was a sweet advert but had nothing on its predecessor. Then came The Bear and the Hare in 2013, which I could not stand. It felt contrived and formulaic: I could imagine business people in a meeting room with a Powerpoint titled "How can we make them cry? Tears= Sales". Needless to say, I wasn't expecting great things this year.

And then came Monty the Penguin. Since I have the above mentioned history with John Lewis ads, I thought it would be funny to record my reaction Gogglebox-style for my weekly vlog. I was certainly not anticipating reacting the way I did.

The advert opens with a little boy and his pet penguin, Monty. Monty goes everywhere with him and helps the boy out. Cute! It kind of reminded me of Fluffy, who is my pet, only not actually real. Fluffy is a cuddly toy but he's real to me. This opening to the advert was sweet because, although I've never had a real pet (unless you count Nibbles the hamster who I never saw and then died on Christmas Eve when I was 12), I could kind of relate to it in terms of Fluffy. Then it felt like the advert sidetracked a little. Monty was looking for love and there was no longer that cute boy-and-pet dynamic going on. Of course, the boy, being a fantastic pet-owner, bought a lady penguin for Monty, at which point it is revealed that Monty and his girlfriend are not real penguins at all: They're stuffed toys. Cue heaving sobs.

Ok, so the particularly astute will pretty much have worked out why this affected me so much but I want to go into greater detail about Fluffy and why he's so important to me.

I received Fluffy as a Christmas present from my Auntie Sylvia when I was 8 (Oh look, a Christmas present. Notice the parallels). As a child, I had a pretty rough time. Don't worry, I won't be going all X Factor on you, but I was an anxious, socially awkward child who found it difficult to communicate with other children. This continued into my teens and beyond. Throughout my school years, I rarely went out with other children and would instead spend my free time holed up in my room. I found it impossible to share my problems and gained a reputation for being perpetually bright and cheerful when, actually, that couldn't have been farther from the truth. With nobody to turn to, I spoke to Fluffy. He listened to my problems without judgement and gave me advice. Of course, being a stuffed toy, the advice wasn't really from him, but from a part of my subconscious that I couldn't access alone. It needed the distance of coming from "someone else" for me to pick up on it. Fluffy was the personification of my limbic system- providing me with measured emotions, behaviour and motivation. I needed an outlet for these as I didn't trust them from myself.

When my life turned upside down at 16, I retreated further into my solitude. Fluffy soaked up my tears, he was an indestructible stress ball I could squeeze, he was always at my side. By this point, I was more than old enough to have lost the belief that may, just maybe, he does come alive when I'm asleep, but I could appreciate that he was symbolic of a constant in my life. Everything was changing but Fluffy was there. He was the sounding board for my troubles. There was so much inside me that I couldn't tell anybody, so many destructive emotions bottling up inside, but letting them out with Fluffy as my counsellor minimised their impact.

In 2008, I met Rich and he made a surprise visit to my student accommodation in Winchester. I hurriedly stuffed Fluffy down the side of the bed, ashamed and embarrassed to be 19 years old and still sleeping next to a teddy. Rich found him, chuckled and said "Who have we got here then?". Like the perpetually patient, understanding man he is, he completely took Fluffy on board and never once judged me.

Mental health problems have reached out to both of us in our 6 years together and sometimes it was difficult to communicate with each other as a result of these. I didn't want to tell Rich I was angry with him, for example, so Fluffy would be. Or perhaps Rich was worried about me but didn't want to concern me, so he would say Fluffy is worried. Much like when I was a child, Fluffy became an invaluable tool to share those difficult feelings. Even today, sometimes Fluffy will suddenly become sulky with Rich because I haven't got my own way! (I'm a sulker) 

Fluffy became our relationship mascot. Much like the boy in the advert, we'd buy him little token gifts. Sometimes Fluffy would buy a present for one or the other of us. Fluffy will occasionally leave notes out, since it's much nicer to come home to a note saying "Hello! Can you please clean the bath because my little paws won't reach? From Fluffy" than a passive-aggressive Post It Note! When we got married he, and his later-adopted little brother George, were ringbearers. Over the years- he will be 18 this Christmas- he has aged. His paws and ears are threadbare, he's turned grey and the insanely fluffy fur that gave him his name is now flat and matted. Just like Monty at the end of the advert, Fluffy is pretty bedraggled. But then my dad always said "If teddies get dirty, it shows they've been having fun".

For me, Fluffy is more than just a teddy. He was a beacon of hope in my childhood, a counsellor and supporter. As I moved into my difficult teen years, he provided a sense of security as a constant in my life and now, as a married 26 year old, he reminds me of what I went through to get here and reminds me that, together, we can take on anything. And that is why the John Lewis advert made me cry.

If you're interested in the psychology of adults with teddy bears, I really recommend reading up about Grayson Perry and his rather famous teddy, Alan Measles. When he began speaking publicly about his relationship with Alan Measles, I suddenly felt a little less weird! Here are two particulary clear examples, from The Radio Times and York Mix.


  1. I think that's really sweet and can kinda relate. I have a little pig that my friend bought me in high school, after a close friend of mine died. I could've named him after that friend as a remembrance thing, but I called him 'worry pig' because he was to take away all my worries and problems. He's just a tiny little flat thing and my friend said she found him on the floor of a shop and he looked a bit tatty and thought nobody would buy him and she knew I would give him a good home. I still have him now.

    As for the JL ads, I kinda remember that first one but it didn't mean much to me. I got really emotional with the snowman one, I remember. It's just so sweet that he went all that way for her. I liked last year too, it was pretty sad (though I preferred the snowmen). I love the one this year. It's cute that he's looking for love and I love even more that they turn out to be toys. I think it's a nice thing to see kids playing with something 'not fancy' and seeing their imagination, making up little lives for their toys.

  2. I can't watch 'The Long Wait' without sobbing and I had the same reaction to Monty the penguin! I think it's something about the innocence of children & the whole idea of Christmas to a child that makes it special to me. Such great adverts.
    Becky // Geek Gets Glam

  3. So glad I read this post, I thought the John Lewis ad was good but when I found statistics on moneyz and how they thought this would inspire people to adopt penguins and that they donate a bit of money (hardly anything!) compared to all the money from the sainsburys chocolate bars going to the poppy appeal, the john lewis ad has lost its shine for me. But well done to the people who made it cos it clearly works!

    I love your story about Fluffy. I am at uni, 19 years old, and have a stuffed dog that has come with me. I have a few more at home but I keep them more cos they were gifts and they're cute! But Russ is my beagle and he is so worn and had been with me through everything! I can see how useful the teddy is in sharing feelings, like a feelings stick!! Loved reading this so so much :') xo
    amber love

  4. Oh wow, I really love this post! I could relate to it so much. From the age of 10, I've had Winnie the Pooh who has been a little, tiny shoulder to cry on in sad times, my supporter on flights, my little friend when I just need a cuddle.. The list goes on. Anyone I've had a relationship with throughout the years, be that a friendship or a boyfriend, they've known about Winnie and the fact that nobody will replace him. I did have a couple of other little friends before him such as Raggidy the rag doll and Russ the dog but they stay on my bed and are like the older, wiser teddies who accept Pooh being The One now. It sounds absolutely ridiculous but you obviously understand. I'm so glad you've wrote a post about this and I now feel a little less stupid knowing that other people feel the same. Thanks for writing this!

    - xoxo

  5. I am totally not crying reading this. Totally. This sums up perfectly why I love the advert so much, it's about so much more than an adorable penguin finding love but it feels like not everyone realises that! I think I actually prefer Monty to The Long Wait but I do adore them both. x

    Charlotte / coloursandcarousels

  6. Awwww this is such a cute post!!! It's so nice to see how people feel the same way - sometimes I think it's just me haha! :)

    Layla xx

  7. Every one of their adverts makes me cry, I just can't deal with them!
    Danielle xo || mylilyotv


I read all comments and appreciate every single one, even if I can't always reply. If you have a question or need a reply, feel free to tweet me @BeckyBedbug- I always reply to tweets!

Blog Design by Get Polished | Copyright Becky Craggs 2017