by Julius WiedemannJan 12, 2022
This is the third year we are going through a sort of pandemic holiday season. And it is also the third year that we don’t know either the near or the mid-term future for sure. And for the third consecutive year technology will be of great help do unite families, especially now that thousands of flights have been cancelled due to the Omicron variant ‘tsunami’. With cases reaching record numbers in the entire pandemic time in Europe and in the United States, and with the vaccination curve becoming flat, the holiday season is being looked at with a lot of anxiety. “As people stayed away from travel and celebrated the holidays from their homes this December, Apple saw the highest volume of FaceTime calls ever on Christmas,” the website MacRumors announced in January 2021. We can expect something similar this year.
Since the first year of an official Christmas Card, in 1843, and becoming an official national holiday in 1870 in the United States, Christmas has changed a lot, and as a buying spree holiday it has now a lot of competitors, such as Black Friday, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and others. The first Christmas was actually celebrated in Rome, Italy, in AD 336, about two centuries after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire. Only about half of America’s population consider Christmas a religious holiday, they spend about $600 each with the gifts, and 65 per cent of them send Christmas cards. That information is maybe not scalable to the whole world, where other religions take prevalence and word cultures navigate in a different way, but here in this article, they mean only to build a broad idea of how important this holiday is. With the impossibility of a lot of people traveling everywhere, digital channels start to play a much more important part in peoples’ lives. They are enabling new habits. They enable families to communicate, as I did with my kids living in England, to make money transfers instead of sending gifts, to buying gifts online and to getting them shipped directly to loved ones, so on and so forth.
New Year’s Eve has also become a spectacular event. From Sydney to Shanghai, Paris to Rio de Janeiro, and from New York to London, these cities have captivated the optimism for the next year. The fireworks symbolise the new expectations for the year to come. This year, however, many countries are still holding their breath. The social distanced celebrations last year seemed to be our last, but reality has changed, again. But people who experienced such an event ran to Instagram to spread the message. With the title “Omicron mutes New Year parties worldwide” the news portal Aljazeera reported on December 31 that “Many large parties and fireworks displays cancelled or scaled down due to a rise in coronavirus infections across the world.” Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, for instance, kept the fireworks, but cancelled the music concerts that were going to happen on the beach of Copacabana.
To completely disrupt peoples’ lives today you only need to turn off electricity first, and second, the internet connection. After that, cancelling flights is probably the most nerve-racking situation for any holiday season. But no one living their normal lives thought about a virus. The rules of engagement changed for business traveling, and also for family gatherings that counted on getting people physically together. Many of us want to see the elders as we can’t stop thinking that this might be the last time we see them. Families that are spreading around, learned quickly, in COVID times, to avoid logistical nightmares. Europe’s experiment in flexing the rules during the pandemic shows a clear rise of COVID-19, but thankfully not in the number of deaths; but meeting more people digitally will become unavoidable. Countries in the warmer season might experiment a similar thing in two or three months, as the next wave of Omicron will hit other places when the temperature gets down.
There seems to be no boundaries for the introduction of a holiday season in virtual terms. At virtualsantaclausvisits.com you can book a virtual experience with Santa. The memes have been countless too. Digital technologies, once again, will be at our service. A kind of salvation to keep the Roman tradition on. As we did in the previous two years, we will hold back for a few weeks, and then plan accordingly. Many companies around the world have already gone back to full home-office working scheme, and have changed the patterns of business travels. The general sense is about being optimistic. Vaccination drives are growing and the coverage is achieving herd immunity. Soon we will also have pills to help further. Treatments have also improved and Omicron is not taking as many people to hospitals as Delta did. We should start this year on the very positive note, knowing that we learned so much to optimise the digital world for better productivity, and better relationship building.
Read more from the series Digital Legacies where our columnist Julius Wiedemann investigates the many aspects of digital life.