Animals at Christmas: a tale of two pictures Image by Wokandapix The idea of animals at Christmastime may conjure up images of cute puppies in pointy red hats and fluffy kittens popped into knitted stockings. Or perhaps even bring to mind some of the more elaborate pet costumes – reindeer, elf or santa - that seem to have become popular in recent years. Those of us who have lived with animals in one way or another, know what it is to feel a special bond to a furry or feathered friend. They become a muchloved part of our families, our lives and our celebrations. So it’s natural to want to include them in all things Christmassy. Sometimes, though, animal friends can become little extensions of our human selves. The growth of ‘pet influencers’ on social media is a recent phenomenon which portrays animals as having human-like lifestyles - playing dress-up with friends, going on lunch dates or trick-or-treating, lounging on the bed in a onesie – all aided by an industry which produces designer pet-wear and accessories to suit all manner of tastes. The top ‘pet influencer’ on Instagram is jiffpom – a Pomeranian dog, who has over 30 million followers across various social media channels and who has (presumably with human help?!) posted hundreds of images and videos of his fluffy self in various poses and costumes, spawning a range of merchandise. The fact that jiffpom is a living, breathing, sentient being seems to be incidental to the marketable ‘product’ he (and many like him) have become. Let’s move on to Picture 2 Image from www.animals-partner.blogspot.com/ The traditional Nativity assembles into one ‘scene’ all the characters and storylines from the birth of Jesus narratives found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mary, Joseph and the swaddled baby Jesus are surrounded by the angels, shepherds, magi and oh-so-many-animals! 5

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