Image by Lyn Millett via Flickr
It is too late to offer any Thanksgiving holiday tech tips -- here's one for next year, though: brine the turkey! A time-honored technology to avoid dry white meat. Anyway, I thought I'd jot down a few notes about technology in the service of holiday celebrations. In my house, we celebrate a secular Christmas, so that'll be the focus here. Adapt and modify as needed if appropriate for whatever near-winter-solstice holiday/celebration/festival is your favorite.
I like gift-giving, and I like finding just the right gift for someone. But I find it increasingly impossible, and so gift-giving, unfortunately, becomes yet another chore - a bunch of checkboxes to check off. (In fact, last year I was such an automaton about it that I didn't remember that we'd agreed 'no gifts for the adults' with my ~nieces parents, and since they were on my list from the previous year, they were on my list again, and I churned through and ticked off getting gifts for them. Oopsie.) Now, once in awhile I'll see something earlier in the year and think "perfect!" It's great if the person for whom I think the gift is perfect is already *on* my list - but in cases like that sometimes I'll just get it anyway. Generally, though, I try to make a small focused list of recipients. My advice is to do the same. Focus on making connections and getting in touch (cards, maybe), but keep the gift frenzy to a dull roar. Prune the list as much as you can. Both the 'who' you feel you need to buy for and 'how much'. Then shop online as much as possible. I like going to stores, shopping centers, and malls during the holiday season to enjoy the decorations and festive air (if I'm not already completely stressed out), but I try to avoid *having* to go, because that just kills the fun completely. So I try to do the bulk of my gift-buying online and then I just enjoy browsing a bit in the fancy decorated shops.
I love Christmas music and have even relaxed my former start date of Thanksgiving to 'sometime after Halloween.' Partly because the season passes so fast sometimes that I feel like I barely got a chance to enjoy it, but also partly because our holiday music library includes a lot of wintry-themed music that isn't specifically Christmas. For a long time, years in fact, I had convinced myself there was no reason to listen to 'new' Christmas/holiday music. I have a lot of classic stuff, and surely everything new is just remakes. But I'm over that now and have found some very nice new releases in the past few years. I also tend to listen to the radio in the car more often during the holiday season and keep an ear out for new-to-me stuff that's nice and I wouldn't have come across otherwise. And I now recommend just scanning the last 2-3 years of new holiday albums to see if there's something worth checking out. We also create a new Christmas playlist each year rather than just playing the long list of all the holiday music we own, just to narrow it down and give a better listen to some things that might otherwise be lost to the shuffle.
Finding and sustaining connections with other people is of course essential and vital year round, but the holidays remind us of its importance and (sometimes) create opportunities for us to do so. Without having those connections mediated by technology. As my son gets older, I find I have to ration my own screen time more around him - to say nothing of his - in order to model better behavior. (It's hardly fair to say he doesn't get to have "ipod time" in the morning if both his father and I are checking our email and doing the morning news surf in bed. (This dynamic is yet to be sorted out; stay tuned).) So normally I would advise making a concerted effort to disconnect for large chunks of the holidays and spend time connecting with whatever friends or family are nearby. But distance poses its own challenges, and I expect that for our family we'll spend a chunk of time with video chat windows open to extended family.
Hewing to much-loved traditions while at the same time developing new ones is part of the ongoing fun of the holidays. And various technologies can be used to help enhance enjoyment of the holidays (haven't even mentioned the efficiencies of online holiday card shopping, for example), so look for those opportunities where possible, but keep a focus on the people around you (geographically and virtually).