/ Shopping, Technology

Christmas should be present, not virtual

Hand coming out of computer holding Christmas present

Emails to Santa, online advent calendars and Facebook cards are all very well, especially when it comes to paper saving, but to me they miss the point – and the spirit – of the festive season.

The digital switchover has now hit Christmas. One in three children will write to Santa on a website or a smartphone, according to a recent survey. Few are planning to post a letter to Lapland (what did Royal Mail do with those?).

The same survey (commissioned by a theme park for some reason) says that almost a quarter of us will send season’s greetings via Facebook this year, rather than by card.

Surely this is a great saving of paper, and therefore trees, making up for the millions that will be slaughtered in the name of carrying multi-coloured baubles?

Why does it matter if Christmas goes online?

In theory, a virtual Christmas sounds good. But in practice, it makes for a definite lack of spirit.

In our house, we have two advent calendars. One is online, and one is an old-fashioned thing made of cardboard with pictures of angels and shepherds. We had to scour far and wide to find it, rejecting all those containing chocolate and branded Disney.

Ironically, to find a really good cardboard advent calendar, we had to go online.

I’m not a reactionary, and happily go online for better deals, money conversions and the origin of macaroni cheese, but if we had only an online advent calendar, I wouldn’t see it as soon as I walked into the room, and nor would the children.

And if we had only seasonal greetings via Facebook or email, what would we cover our shelves with to remind us that we really ought to call people we’ve not spoken with for far too long?

The Christmas spirit is about generosity, and, to me, that includes taking the time to write to people individually, on a card they can put on their shelf to remind them of you.


Interesting, Liz. I wonder if our opinions differ because I don’t have children. Christmas is more fun for kids, isn’t it? Christingles, crib-side carols, stockings, are all things generally (but not exclusively, as my Facebook friends with photos of Lego advent calendars show).

Call me Scrooge, shout ‘bah humbug’ at me, but I was thinking at the weekend as my husband and I wrote 1001 Christmas cards (well I felt like that), surely there’s a better way. Starting “Dear X” and finishing “Love Y & Z” really is, to my mind, a waste of trees. Maybe I need to start doing one of those round robin emails friends of my parents send to make the cards feel worth it. But then I’m resisting that as it would make me feel old.

Personal notes perhaps, but what do you write? The usual pleasantries of “shame we didn’t catch up” or “hope to see you in 2012”? The Christmas card equivalent to “we must meet up”!

If I was more organised I would have maybe sent online greetings to my more online-friendly friends.

We don’t have a tree – our flat is too small and we visit family so we’re not at home – and no advent calendar (didn’t cross my mind). The small smattering of cards and the box of presents to be transported is the only evidence of Christmas in my home. Maybe next year once we’ve moved to a bigger flat I might feel more Christmassy.

So, am I the only bah humbug here? Or should I put in a bit more effort to find some Christmas spirit? Ho ho ho!

I know what you mean, Jo. As I was writing mine I kept thinking ‘I really should write something personal’ but it’s so time-consuming! I did make an effort with people I haven’t seen much this year, giving them a bit of an update on what we’re up to, which made it seem more worthwhile. Then again, we so rarely get ‘nice’ post nowadays that I still get excited when I see some Christmas cards on the door mat!

We like all the traditional [and genuinely sentimental] manifestations of the Christmas and New Year season. We send handwritten cards and post actual presents tied up with brown paper and string [sealed with red wax]. We won’t be at home over Christmas but we decorate the house and gardens, have a big Christmas tree, and have lots of lights on [with timeswitches to keep them going while we’re away]. Not being part of a “social network”, if anyone wants to send us festive greetings they have to do it the old-fashioned way and we proudly display the cards all down the hall. My most important card has got lost in the post this year so the ancient ways are not necessarily the most reliable unfortunately.

Anon the mouse says:
15 December 2011

I love the traditional giving and receiving of cards and gifts, and the endless list of address to visit for a cuppa and exchange cards…..More fun than posting and get to catch up on the gossip 🙂

However, those I interact with virtually will receive e-cards.

Why buy a dead tree edition for someone with a kindle?
Why get someone a DVD/bluray when they have a tablet and access to itunes/equivalent?

Just because I haven’t given someone a physical present or card doesn’t mean I have spent any less time looking for the ideal virtual one.