Is Technology Killing the Magic of the Holidays?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

An excited Santa Claus tries out the latest games for the popular Wii system from Nintendo on Black Friday at the Stoneridge Mall on Novermber 28, 2008 in Pleasanton, California. (Bob Riha, Jr./Nintendo via/Getty)

It’s no secret that technology is changing the way we live, but what does that mean when it comes to our experience of the holiday season?

At a time of year that’s defined both by sentimental traditions and crazy consumerism, how does Santa and his reindeer stack up next to Amazon’s new plan for drone package delivery?

Some may say that digital technology is taking the magic out of the holiday season. Christmas no longer seems quaint when 1 in 3 children write their lists to Santa through a website or smartphone app, making that precious hand-written letter seem like the ghost of Christmas past.

But the sentimental nature of the season hasn't been lost entirely.

Thanks to online stores, more small businesses can compete, selling everything from handmade necklaces from Kenya to hand-stitched mittens from Vermont. Tools that allow you to create and share your wish-lists online make getting the right gift for someone easier than ever. And yes, some sites even allow you to have your ugly holiday sweaters personalized.

Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s New Tech City, joins The Takeaway to discuss how technology has transformed our holiday traditions.


Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Katie Hiler and Kristen Meinzer


T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

Ann Maloney-Mason

I am very upset that the Take Away would air a comment from a listener that said "he found out earlier, that Santa was not real, because he grew up in the internet era." That might not be the exact words, but that was the exact message!Why would you play that on a show where many children are in the room with their parents, listening to what is on the radio?
A VERY POOR CHOICE, in my opinion! Fortunately my child was not here to hear that comment.

Dec. 03 2013 04:11 PM
Mia from Manhattan

I completely disagree with Ms. Zomorodi about the purpose of Christmas cards: it's NOT to do a once-a-year info dump of what your kids have been up to all year. The purpose of Christmas cards is to send holiday greetings to the people who are dear to you and make it about them - why they're special to you, how much you miss them, maybe memories you have from Christmases past with them, and then yes, a little of the latest news from the sender, but not a multi-page bulletin!

Email greetings and those online cards are cheap and tacky. What they really say is "I couldn't be bothered to do more than cut and paste your email address into this website. Happy Holidays."

Dec. 03 2013 04:00 PM
Mimi Brauch from Bergen County

This is potentially amusing, but what can possibly top Tom Lehrer's carols including "O Little Town of Hackensack"?

Dec. 03 2013 03:54 PM
Karyl Severson from Central Oregon

Technology has little to do with the changes in Christmas. I do miss real Christmas cards, but I don't send many myself. I give very few gifts myself because I am on a very limited income. And I find the frenzy of Christmas shopping that has burgeoned over the last 40 years is quite depressing. My parents died when I was quite young and after that, the Christmas traditions seemed to get lost, and more so as family moved all over the place. I love the Christmas season, and I keep in touch with my international friends via my computer at the holidays. So I guess what I'm saying is that technology helps me keep in touch easily and inexpensively with people all over the world, and that the Christmas traditions have changed in my lifetime because of family changes.

Dec. 03 2013 02:59 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

If only I could buy virtual gifts with virtual money for my kids. I would spoil them silly.

We might be in an age where we could actually build a Santa Claus...Hmm

My Christmas Phillip K. Dick Science Fiction story starts:

"Santa Claus was not always real, but we built him and now he very much exists. We've tried stopping him, but he is too powerful a force, and now people insist he was always real. Negotiations with Santa Claus have gotten nowhere."

I will finish this story by Christmas and send it to The Takeaway

Dec. 03 2013 02:09 PM
Nora from Oregon

Friends started a facebook and instagram group called the Advent Photo Project where they post a new theme everyday and we post pictures with your depiction of the theme from December 1-25. It's a fun way to feel connected and a very digital seasonal tradition.

Dec. 03 2013 12:56 PM
Megan from Columbus, OH

My family used to play computer games for Xmas holidays by setting up LAN parties. Remember those? We need played simple games like Pac-man and significantly more ruthless games like Doom and Heretic. Now,over a decade later, it's still the main thing the cousins look forward to every year as adults. Along with the board and card games we play too, online gaming is not just child's play. It's a silly excuse to get together, accomplish a mission or two, catch up, and ultimately bond! Technology has only brought us closer!

Dec. 03 2013 12:31 PM

I think technology is aiding our society to forget what is so magical about the holidays. This was evidenced by the comment about the family choosing to connect through the internet so they could by more "lavish" presents for each other. To me the holidays are about spending time with my family and technology has made that seem less important. Our holiday dinners have gotten smaller, especially in the United States. My family invites those that don't have others in their life to join us and it is sad in a way how many people take up on the offer. We used to fly from everywhere just to enjoy each other's company. That's something important I see lacking in the holidays.

Dec. 03 2013 09:28 AM

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