Despite COVID-19, hamster mascot back for Christmas

by Dogpatch Press Staff

Welcome to Dutch furry guest writer Jack Newhorse.

Albert Heijn is the biggest supermarket chain in The Netherlands, a country of 17 million people in northwestern Europe. Its hamster mascot is often seen in video ads and in the weekly circular. And for those who don’t mind seeing a (toy) hamster being ripped to shreds, it’s even available as a squeaky dog toy.

The Dutch word for hoarding is hamstering (“hamsteren”): The mascots were created for promotions that encourage consumers to stock up. You don’t “squirrel it away” there, you hamster it away!

But the “AH” hamsters were forced back into their burrows when the wordplay that brought them to life became grim. As hoarding led to depleted shelves in the first weeks of COVID-19, the grocery’s “hamsterweken” (hamster week) sales seemed inappropriate. Within a few days, the hamsters were gone.

Now they’re back to celebrate Christmas. As a company spokesperson told (English translation), “The hamsters are once again for sale in the store as a stuffed animal and a Christmas ornament. They’re also giving a bit of color to this week’s print ad.”

Online, the store offers several ornaments, including one with the hamster in a kigu-like moose onesie. The store’s collection of plushies — which the Dutch charmingly call knuffelbeestjes, or “cuddle beasts” — includes a “Hamster Piet“. Thankfully, a non-racist version.

Despite the hamsters’ anthropomorphism, Dutch furries surveyed for this article were mostly blasé about them. Mike Nighthowl said he finds them “Slightly annoying. Yet I miss them as they’re kinda iconic. Without them advertisements get even more bland and therefore almost seem more interrupting.” And Kuva Klik (aka DJ-Code Y) writes, “The hamsters are quite funny. I remember seeing some commercials featuring them when I was younger. [But] I don’t watch regular television now, so I wouldn’t have known they were missing if it weren’t for the news article about it.”


Jack Newhorse is an American-born writer in The Netherlands, furry since 1998. He runs the coronavirus-postponed event Otterdance.

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