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The Hershey’s Kisses Bell Commercial, Explained

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The Banner Society Advent Calendar’s entry for December 23.

Hershey’s classic television commercial featuring Kisses as self-actuating bells is older than Blake Bortles. It is also much more beloved; when the company updated the commercial this year, enough people expressed their outrage that Hershey’s had to announce they’d be airing both the original and the remix.

As a small but important piece of America’s holiday culture, this ad has gone relatively unexamined throughout its lifespan. That ends today.

1. HERSHEY’S PRESENTS KISSES WITH REMARKABLE COGNITIVE ABILITY

In this commercial, the chocolates can move and act of their own free will. That fact alone, however, does not separate a Kiss from a protozoan or annelid. It’s the brain function the Kisses exhibit that makes them fascinating creatures. Consider what we can infer just from this short commercial:

  • Kisses can keep to a rhythm.
  • Kisses can work cooperatively and take direction from a leader (each Kiss rings when it is supposed to).
  • Kisses can learn (the “Whew” at the end of the commercial makes it clear that this song is one the chocolates have been taught, not a melody they are intrinsically born knowing).
  • Kisses can feel, at a minimum, anxiety and relief (again, the “Whew”).

Think about how few animals check those boxes! If you saw a group of chimpanzees in the wild successfully playing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” on instruments, and then one of the chimps wiped their brow because they were glad they didn’t mess up, you would have witnessed one of the greatest evolutionary steps in Earth’s history.

You may be tempted to bring up the anthropomorphic M&Ms, who can walk and talk and commit gruesome murders. Those are something else altogether, closer to a Mr. Potato Head than what we’re dealing with here. I’ll thank you not to mention them again.

2. THE KISSES HAVE SOME BASE AWARENESS OF RELIGION

The Kisses could have performed a more secular selection, like “Frosty the Snowman” or “Let It Snow.” And while “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” makes no specific mention of Jesus or Mary or the traditional Christian elements of the holiday, well, look at the title.

True, the Kisses don’t sing, so it’s possible they just know the tune and not the lyrics or title. That theory might even be convincing were it not for two contextual clues. First, the Kisses are all dressed in Christmas colors. Second, the Kisses are arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree. Given that these chocolates are nearly as intelligent as humans, it’s wildly insulting to suggest that they would simply perform this song unaware of its direct connection to the Christmas season.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Kisses are believers; one doesn’t have to adhere to a religion’s dogma to sing a song. But it certainly suggests at least some awareness of Christianity, and from there it’s a very short journey to the Kisses engaging on a cognitive level with Judaism and Islam. And it seems very unlikely that eleven individual Kisses would absorb enough Christian traditions to play “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” without at least one of them identifying as a follower of Christ.

This leads to some troubling questions, however.

The Bible is silent on the question of whether God’s promise of eternal life extends beyond people to animals. Given that the first Kisses were not produced until two millennia after Christ’s birth, it’s not surprising that it also does not address the spirituality of sentient chocolates.

Let’s dwell on that briefly. Modern religion can be unfulfilling and inconsistent, but it is, at a minimum, focused on the audience it speaks to: human beings. If Kisses embrace any of the sects of Christianity or other Abrahamic faiths, they are engaged in religion as spectator sport. How challenging must it be to hear Scripture speak of God’s love for all men and women, created in His image, while not once hearing the Creator express His affection for Kisses? Does that make a Christian Kiss a truer believer than their human counterpart, or merely a fool?

Or could it be that Kisses have their own branch of Christianity altogether, one in which the teachings and texts of the religion are framed in ways that center their particular spiritual journey? Perhaps there’s even a separate Kiss Bible, where Jesus raises an already eaten Lazarus Kiss from the dead. That would be a more satisfying and enriching experience for the Kisses.

It might also make them heretics worshipping a false foil-wrapped savior, their souls cast deeper into Hell with every service they attend and hymn they ring out. “We won’t go until we get some,” indeed.