Choosing presents to buy is getting harder as our world shifts inexorably into the digital realm. Old stalwarts such as books, CDs and DVDs are no longer safe bets. If the person you are buying for has “gone digital”, the physical product is now a poor substitute for its digital equivalent. But for the giver, the insubstantial and generic nature of an iTunes or Amazon gift certificate is a problem, barely one step removed from the “I couldn’t think of what to get you” subliminal message of a cheque. For children, physical toys have now been displaced by computer and video games and here too, the preferred distribution model is shifting to digital downloads and away from boxes that can be wrapped up and put under the tree.
The social side of Christmas is also dematerialising, as Facebook and other online means of socialising take over from the old fashioned physical way of doing things. But at least nobody has yet managed to digitise that other great feature of Christmas time, food and booze. Perhaps in future, we’ll all have to concentrate less on the giving and receiving and more on the eating and drinking.
Somehow, I don’t think that is what the people who have long bemoaned the materialism of Christmas had in mind.