How Digital Stole Christmas: New Traditions

CERTAIN THINGS ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS HAVE ENDURED FOR GENERATIONS–CLASSIC SONGS, TRADITIONAL DECORATIONS AND BAKING. But take it from an accidental millennial, things have changed a lot since my childhood in the 80s and 90s. And as I watch my own little ones enjoying the magic of the season, I can’t help but notice all the ways our digital world has altered the childhood experience.  

Rudolph On Demand
Remember when you had to vigilantly wait for weeks for Christmas specials to air? And then when you finally knew the date, time and channel, you had to help your parents finagle the VHS recorder if you wanted to watch it more than once? Today, at any time of year, at any moment, our kids can conjure up and watch nearly any special you can imagine. No waiting. No screaming at your brother for changing the channel. It’s just there. And for most of us, we don’t even have cable television anymore. Can you imagine not watching holiday commercials on repeat? How will our kids know what to ask Santa for?

Cyber Monday Wish List

Ah, remember that brisk early-winter day when the mailbox was stuffed so full it could barely close? Why? Because the amazing and thrilling Sears catalog had arrived. If you never experienced the exhilaration of paging through the gargantuan Sears Wish Book, you may have missed out. My cousins and I spent days flipping through and folding down page corners for our wish lists and even our future lists. But today, of course, there is Google, Amazon and Cyber Monday. Since my children are only 3 and 5 years old, I don’t yet know if they’ll make “Christmas list-internet-searching” a group holiday activity.

Not Your Granny’s Christmas Card
By now, you may have joined in the photo “card” trend. I say “card” in quotes because there is usually just one sentence of content to these beauties. And, hey, I get it! I have sent them out. It’s just so much easier than the box of cards my mother continues to purchase. But again, a childhood memory was selecting the perfect card for each person. 

Don’t get me started on how social media killed the Christmas letter. I have thousands of photos to choose from, and we all know what happened throughout the year thanks to social media. At a recent digital conference I attended for work, I discovered there are 2.23 billion monthly active Facebook users. Nowadays, when every “card” is a photo of our family sans personalized letter, I doubt I will ever get my children interested in being part of the process. Maybe if we add more stickers…

I’ll Be Home for the Video Chat
All of these things probably make me sound annoyed by the advances in technology. But in truth, I’m just nostalgic. I see all the ways technology has improved the connections we can have with our loved ones. For instance, when I was a senior in high school, my boyfriend was in the Navy. We had no way to communicate other than to a set time of the week for the call and a have a 1,000-minute calling card on hand to make the call affordable. It overjoys me to know that today everyone can stay in contact. And during the holidays, the most important thing I want my children to realize is that sharing moments with the people closest to you is where the magic lies—and where they will create their own memories.  

Jingle Gina, as she was dubbed by her family, is a writer and author enjoying the holiday season in Rochester with her husband and two children.