We keep Christmas, even though we’re not Christian. India’s the land of festivals, and I grew up believing it’s vital to celebrate — and that it’s easier to get in the mood when all around you is festive. Especially for children. We’ve lived in a number of countries outside India, but the common thread has always been Christmas. So though, by some reckoning it’s not “our” festival, we’ve adopted it wholeheartedly, tree, stockings, presents and all.
And of course, like all festivals and their celebration, it’s always involved a goodly amount of work. Christmas cards, which I wrote to all my far-flung friends, including individual letters to each of them. Locating a good source for a tree. Appropriate ornaments. The complexities of present-buying.
It’s so much easier now. Part of it is just being up the learning curve; for a change, I haven’t been moving cities or countries or continents. I know where to buy a tree, where it goes in the living room, what decorations go outside, what shows to see this season and the most efficient way to get there. Part of it is accumulation; we didn’t need to buy a single ornament this year, we probably have enough to decorate four decent-sized trees.
But the most important factor is the Internet. Want to see a show? The description and reviews are online, and when you want to book a ticket, the layout of the seats is online, too. (We saw, very traditionally, A Christmas Carol and the Nutcracker Ballet.) Check which restaurants are open on Christmas Eve? That’s there, too. Send greetings? Email or Facebook — or some of the wonderful and clever animated cards, varied enough that you can find one that’s particularly appropriate. (I use Jacquie Lawson, which doesn’t have ad-spam or sell email address lists to spammers. But what’s really important is that, thanks to the internet, I’m in touch year-round with these friends and don’t have to rely on annual updates.)
Most importantly… We did all our gift-shopping online. It’s quite marvelous, if you have a fairly good idea of what you want. It provides a far better selection than almost any mall or department store, you can shop at any time. (I’m a night owl, myself, and 3 a.m. works for me.) It’s like magic: all the presents land up on your doorstep in convenient cartons. Slit them open, remove the receipt and price-tags, wrap, install beneath tree.
Of course I do visit the malls, just for the decorations and the buzz and the impulse purchases… but the pressure’s off. It seems strange that 10 years ago, I couldn’t imagine shopping online for anything but books or videotapes. (I was a really early adopter of Amazon.)
Today, if I need something specific — information or products — it’s several orders of magnitude easier to find it on the web than hunting through libraries or phone-books or stores. I firmly believe this is the greatest invention in my lifetime.
(It’s strange, then, that I don’t have a smart phone. I’m the only holdout in my family. I think technology is like chocolate. Love the stuff, but I need to pace myself or I’ll get indigestion.)