By Clare BruceSunday 20 Dec 2015
If there’s one thing we all love about Christmas time, it’s the traditions – from the gift giving and carol singing, to our endless forms of holiday entertainment.
What’s incredible, though, is how those traditions have morphed, as technology, fashion, and consumer habits have changed.
Here’s 10 of them; Merry Christmas.
1 – Christmas Greetings: From Paper To Pixels
Remember when cards were actually made out of—well, card? In decades past, posties were paid overtime to deliver our Christmas cards, ranging in style from the handmade, to the classic John Sands variety, to the fully-blown letter chronicling each family member’s achievements for the year. Christmas card collections were proudly displayed on a string of tinsel, along the mantel piece, or – in classic suburban style – hanging from the Venetian blinds.
Sadly, the Christmas card is now almost extinct, replaced in by animated email-cards, text messages with Santa emojis, and videos / slideshows / picture galleries shared on social media. At least we’re saving a few forests.
2 – Christmas Shopping: Let Your Fingers Do The Walking
Gone are the days when you have to plan your Christmas shopping strategy with military precision, three months in advance. No longer must we take a day off work and battle the carparks to walk around a shopping mega-complex for eight hours flat. Instead, we can log into a few gift-shopping websites, punch in our debit card details, and voila! Shopping done. FedEx is the new Rudolph.
3 – Communal Carolling: From Analog To Digital
Long before Mp3s, CDs or even cassette tapes, families would gather around a piano, guitar or fiddle, while the token family musician plinkety-plonked out a few carols, and everyone sang along. It’s a tradition captured on many a vintage Christmas card. These days though, the musical instrument we’re most likely to gather ‘round is the ipad, as we watch Christmas-themed pop-song mashups by Jimmy Fallon or some other late night TV comic.
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4 – Santa Tracking Technology: There’s An App For That
When I was a kid, our best bet for knowing Santa’s whereabouts on December 24 was to tune into the TV news, whereupon the kindly weatherman would point out a cartoon image of Santa riding through the stratosphere on his sleigh. That was then, this is now.
These days, you can follow him on your NORAD Santa Tracker app. That’s a complex piece of software, developed by the North American Aerospace Defence Command, enabling you to watch him at various points on his flight around the world. Wow! Modern technology!
5 – Phoning Grandma: No More Crackly Lines
It’s a rare person who doesn’t talk to their mum, grandma, or siblings on Christmas Day. When we can’t gather in person, we’ll use whatever technology’s available to touch base by voice. In generations past, the phone-on-the-wall, with a circular dial and a tangled curly cord, was employed to make a long-distance “STD” call to loved ones. The phone was passed around as each family member took a turn at shouting down the crackly line to Dad, Grandma or Tipsy Uncle Frank.
Nowadays, though, Grandma’s more likely to call in via Skype. This way, we can see each other face to face, and show off our new Darth Vader Pez Dispenser as if we were right there in person. How did we ever live without internet?
6 – The Soundtrack: Thank Goodness It’s Improved
Now here’s a tradition that’s gotten a whole lot better thanks to advances in technology: The Christmas Day soundtrack. Providing a non-stop playlist of finely curated, no-repeat Christmas-themed music, as a backdrop to the family shenanigans, is no easy feat.
But thankfully, we’ve now got in-the-cloud music streaming services like Spotify, Mp3 apps like itunes, and dedicated digital Christmas radio stations (tried the Christmas Hope player yet?) to help us do just that. It’s a far cry from the days when we had to play the same three Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey and Band-Aid albums over and over, in order to get us through Christmas Day. Thankyou, mod-cons.
7 – Monetary Surprises: From Silver Coins To Yellow Notes
If you’re the right vintage, you’ll remember the old coins-in-the-pudding tradition. Thinking back, it’s remarkable just how excited a kid could get upon finding an alfoil-wrapped 10c piece buried among the brandy-soaked fruit. These days, it’d be a brave mother who would bother hiding any kind of coin but gold in the pudding. In fact for some kids, the Christmas Day monetary haul can reach into the hundreds, when they add up all the $20 and $50 notes tucked into cards by aunties and grandparents. My, how times have changed!
8 – Christmas Day Viewing: Where Has Jesus Gone?
Is it just me, or are have the Bible movies vanished from the tele? I distinctly remember, as a kid, seeing Biblical dramas scattered through the TV programming in the week leading up to Christmas, including movies fearing Jesus, Moses, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and classics like Ben Hur.
Sadly, upon checkingof the free-to-air TV Guide for the week of Christmas 2015, I couldn’t find one single Biblical reference. Instead, the Bible stories are replaced by modern-day Christmas classics like Home Alone, Arthur Christmas, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Jack Frost and The Santa Clause. It’s sad to think that Jesus is no longer the reason for the TV season.
9 – Post-Lunch Activities: We’ve Moved Indoors
Once upon a time the entire family migrated to the backyard after Christmas lunch, for a leisurely game of backyard cricket or badminton. Riding the streets on our new pushbike or skateboard was also high on the list of post-lunch activities. These days, it’s all about electronics. We’re much more likely to be seen watching our new TV series on DVD, playing a PS4 game, or if we’re really energetic, perhaps engaging in a family Wii battle of Guitar Hero or Super Mario Galaxy.
10 – Boxing Day Entertainment: From Pantos To Blockbusters
In another era, the big family entertainment drawcard on Boxing Day was, apparently, the launch of a new Christmas Pantomime. It’s an old British theatrical tradition featuring twisted fairytales, music and plenty of humour. These days we still love a new drama the day after Chrissy, but now it’s on the giant screen of a dark, air-conditioned cinema.
The modern tradition of the Boxing Day Family Blockbuster has taken off, with popular family December 26 releases in recent years including the Narnia series, Avatar, anything made by Pixar, and The Hobbit trilogy. Peter Jackson, we salute you. You’ve help to make the season bright.