Dreaming of a virtual Christmas

virtualchristmasIt all began with e-cards. You’d receive an email from some automated server, and if you were wise you’d mark it as spam and delete it. If you were foolish enough to click the link, a team of dancing snowmen would appear, wishing you a generic merry Christmas.

Next people stopped giving CDs. You’d present someone with an archaic-looking box of plastic disks and they’d say, “Oh, thanks, but I use my mp3 player these days.”

Then books disappeared to be replaced by Kindles and Nooks. Computer games turned into downloads. Movies will soon be streamed directly to your TV.

It’s not that I object to any of this. I don’t yearn for the days of scratched vinyl. I’m old enough to remember cassette tapes and their annoying habit of suddenly exploding out of the tape recorder in a tangled magnetic mess and a metallic screech. I’m quite content to download my mp3s and manage my playlists digitally.

I’m just wondering what the etiquette is. What happens when everyone receives an e-book or a download or an app for Christmas? How can that be done with any sense of giving and receiving?

Amazon has an option for delivering a download as a gift on a specified future date, i.e. 25 December. So, I’m imagining the family standing around a bare Christmas tree, devoid of wrapped presents. Then someone says now, and everyone whips out their iPhones and kindles and spends some time pressing buttons and cursing/smiling, depending on their technical competence.

Then the family all meets back under the tree to say thanks. Except for the teenagers – they’ll just send you a text.

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