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Celebrating an Analog Christmas in the Digital Age

Traditions and rituals aren’t built around our computers and phones. They come from being present in the moment with one another.

Jim McCann

Dec 16, 2023

Written by our Founder and CEO, the Celebrations Pulse letters aim to engage with our community. By welcoming your ideas and sharing your stories, we want to help you strengthen your relationships with the most important people in your life.

Our lives have been transformed by the accelerating advances of digital technology. PCs, tablets, and smartphones – combined with innovations in software and networks – have revolutionized how we work and play, as well as how we connect with other people.

But something changes in the frenetic weeks around Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s: We slow down. We spend less time in front of screens and more time socializing with people in person: attending services, singing carols, playing board games, and other activities that engage with the physical world.

The shift in focus from the digital to the analog is a feast for our senses. We see the twinkling lights on trees, menorahs, and buildings. We hear the bells, songs, and the ripping of wrapping paper. We touch the ornaments and gifts. We smell the burning candles and fresh-cut trees. And we taste food – lots of it!

analog christmas cheer

All these sensorial activities thankfully stick in our memories and get repeated year after year.. We pass along our experiences to our children and grandchildren who share them with their families, creating new holiday rituals and traditions. The analog magic of the season persists even as technology changes the rest of the world.

Understanding the persistence of the analog world

To understand what’s happening, I spoke with David Sax, who has studied the role of analog in our digital world. Back in 2015, he wrote The Revenge of the Analog, which called out several counterintuitive trends like the renewed popularity of vinyl records, film photography, and physical stationery despite the endless availability of streaming services, online video, and e-journals.

Last year, he published another book, The Future Is Digital, which explored how the pandemic forced us to rely more on digital technology as in-person interactions were limited. The results, he wrote, were far from a digital utopia promised by some Silicon Valley visionaries.

David argues that our affinity for the physical world results from the fact that we have always lived in an analog world. We’re hard-wired not for the ones and zeroes of computers but rather for the spectrum of senses that is reality.

We humans are analog. We are flesh and blood creatures. We're souls living on the spinning rock called Earth. And that will continue to be true, and I imagine, and I hope it will be, for thousands of years, if not longer.

He adds that there's a limit to what digital can give us because of the confines of our screens, and that we still relate to the world and one another in a way that is deeper, richer, and more meaningful than anything that we can build with technology.

Analog and our well-being

The pandemic, according to David, showed the dangers of an exclusively digital existence.  As humans, we must engage our senses with tangible realities rather than limiting ourselves to screens. Cultivating in-person connections, as opposed to relying solely on virtual relationships, is essential.

He points to statistics that show as reliance on digital devices and connections has increased, so have problems with our physical and mental health. The pandemic – and its over-dependence on all things digital – worsened the loneliness epidemic, wrecked educational progress, and destroyed work-life balance.

But David is not a Luddite. Rather, he believes digital solutions can make our lives better if we figure out the right balance.

If we can engage in critical thinking around digital technology, then we're going to have a better relationship with it at the end of the day, regardless of how it evolves, or what the next iteration of it is.

A Christmas lesson

The holiday experience supports David’s point about technology. Yes, our smartphones help us find gifts, schedule get-togethers, and connect with friends and family all over the globe. But the tech is just a means of enhancing the analog end.

The holidays are also a reminder that our lives succeed or fail based on our relationships with other people, not gadgets. As we experience more of the analog world in the weeks ahead, perhaps we can figure out a better mix of the digital and analog for the new year.

After all, we don’t build rituals around our phones or computers. We build them around each other. Taking in those moments and appreciating the world around us are priceless, and there’s no better time to live in an analog world than at this time of year.

All the best,

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