It’s Officially Christmas Season: The PA Lottery’s Holiday Ad Is Airing

The Pennsylvania Lottery commercial with a "The Twelve Days of Christmas" parody song is already airing on television. Happy holidays, Rita!

If you watched any television this weekend, you know that the Christmas season has officially begun. It’s not that we’ve passed Halloween — though that surely has something to do with it. No, it’s that the Pennsylvania Lottery has started airing its “This Holiday Season My Good Friend Gave to Me” commercial.

The ad — which is actually a parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that will get stuck in your head and have you singing “FIVE CASH FIVES!” for several hours after seeing it — has been airing in Pennsylvania since 1992.

Two years ago, the Pennsylvania Lottery did a shot-for-shot remake of the commercial, which is the one that’s airing this year. You should prepare to see this commercial nonstop the next two months.

The remake features most of the original music track — the conversations seem to be re-done, or at least tweaked with — and was filmed somewhere near Fairmount Park. The original was filmed outside Pittsburgh.

“In this case we felt a shot-for-shot remake was a good use of our resources,” the Pennsylvania Lottery’s Drew Svitko told WGAL in 2012. Truly, this was the biggest undertaking in a shot-for-shot remake since Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. There are some differences, though: The snow in the old ad was actually potato flakes, while the new commercial has three types of synthetic snow.

Many have and will make fun of the “WHAT A GREAT GIFT!” part of the commercial. After all, these are just lottery tickets. But these are people who have not been raised in families with working-class backgrounds. I’ve been giving and receiving lottery tickets for Christmas since it was against the law for me to give and receive lottery tickets. When “freelance writer” actually meant “unemployed” for me, select members of the McQuade and Hall families received lottery tickets. Perhaps not a great gift, but isn’t it the thought that counts?

Eh, maybe not. But to me the first shot of the ad is the most interesting part. It tells a long story. It’s clearly an homage to a changed Ebenezer Scrooge — or, in the best filmed version of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge McDuck — throwing open his window and asking what day it is. I fully believe in this backstory for the commercial: Joe was once a miserly man who loved money and hated Christmas. But after hearing a Christmas carol re-worked as a commercial, he realized the error of his ways and embraced the Christmas spirit. He gave everyone in the neighborhood lottery tickets. The reason Rita and “WHAT A GREAT GIFT!” guy are so excited about the lottery ticket from Joe is that it’s the first Christmas gift he’s ever given.

What a great gift, indeed.