Hellish Holiday Blog

The web and social media have changed the face of the holidays. They can make busy, challenging times easier, but they also make them a lot less personal and a lot more shopping-centric.

As the creator of a site called “Hellish Holidays” (www.hellishholidays.com), this uber-commercialization doesn’t surprise me. While not a curmudgeon on most subjects, when it comes to the holidays I’m a fatalist. Mostly it’s a combination of stresses related to family, finances, traffic and gift-giving. Plus do we really need to hear about Rudolph and roasting chestnuts yet again?

In the olden days, you’d buy some cards, write a year-end wrap-up letter, maybe copy a photo of the family, address and mail to people you hadn’t heard from for almost 12 months. You’d seek out gifts you thought your friends and family would like. You did all this pretty by yourself, making lists, writing cards, going to the post office.
Today, we celebrate the holidays in public. The Christmas card list has been replaced by the list of Facebook friends, the card with an online version or a wall post, and the photo with year-round sites like Instagram or Flickr. The holiday letter is unnecessary since your Twitter feed offers plenty of ongoing detail about your activities and life changes.

Gift-giving takes place through online wish lists and apps. You’ll never have to put any thought into a gift that represents your personal feelings for gift recipients – just get them what they ask for. No muss, no fuss, no surprise! Handmade gifts? Since Grandma is too busy playing Words with Friends, they’ll have to come from Etsy. Oh, and if you missed Cyber Monday, there’s probably a daily deal, or you can use your smartphone to compare prices.

You’ll never again have to wonder if there is anything you can do with your leftover ribbon or the wrapping paper from opened gifts. Just check out Pinterest. Feel like a good cry? Find the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on YouTube.

The web has replaced the joy of discovery –my nephew would love that toy! – with the chore of a to do list. Whatever unique family traditions you had, a quick search on Google will reveal they came from a Woman’s Day magazine circa 1973 – and are shared by millions of others.

Of course the web, mobile and social media do accomplish the admirable goal of making life easier. But when it comes to the holidays, stress and running around are part of the tradition.

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