Christmas—The More Things Change…

By Paula LaBrot
Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Christmas—The More Things Change…
Wikimedia Commons Annie Oakley, 1891, credited with creating the first personal Christmas card.
Christmas 2021 is here! This wonderful holiday has been celebrated around the world for hundreds and hundreds of years. Throughout those years, Christmas has evolved in its preparation and practices. Well, you just can’t expect things to stay the same for over two millennia! Technology has been a big part of changes in Christmas traditions. Computers and the internet have transformed this holiday season, changing how we communicate our good wishes to each other and how we gift our family and friends. reports, “Some would argue these changes are for the better, while others may say that it is leading to a loss of tradition. Regardless of your views, there is no escaping the fact that these changes have taken place.” Evolution of Christmas Cards Early Christmas cards in England were beautiful, handmade works of art that were often the Christmas gift itself. They were made with dried flowers, lovely drawings of fairies, flowers, ribbons or other natural things like shells, leaves and pretty stones. They were usually delivered in person. The first commercially available card was designed by John Callcott Horsley in London in 1843. Stepping things up, Queen Victoria began sending out published lithograph engravings (hand tinted), setting a trend for her subjects to follow. In the United States, Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant who settled in Boston, used the advanced chromolithographic color printing process to produce five million cards a year. Annie Oakley created the first personalized photo Christmas card in 1891. While traveling in Glasgow, Scotland, Oakley had a photo of herself in a tartan made especially for her. She wanted to send Christmas wishes back to fans, friends and family in the United States, and had a local printer make up cards featuring the photo. How many Christmas cards have you received this season showing family photos? Today’s technology makes it a “snap” to create and print up these very personal cards. I have received more of these than any other style of card this year.
Erector sets (IQ Toys Ferris Wheel Building Model) were precursors to high-tech toys like this robot, Meccanoid G15KS, your wisecracking best friend with voice recognition capabilities.
Beyond the traditional Christmas card, social media seems to be the millennial way to wish friends and family holiday greetings via Facebook, Twitter, Texts and digital Christmas cards. You can buy e-cards to send over the internet, or you can use software programs like Photoshop to make your own creations. SmashUps’ personalized video greetings allow users to send customized holiday wishes featuring favorite celebrities, including Santa himself ( These digital greetings save money in stamps, can be delivered instantly and do not contribute to landfill trash. But I’ll tell you, there is just something so special, so savable, about the traditional cards, especially the labors of love from the littles in our family. To each his own…

Gift Giving—Shopping
The first Christmas presents were gold, incense and myrhh brought to baby Jesus in Bethlehem by the Three Wise Men. This was not a one-day delivery! Those Wise Men brought the gifts in person, by camel, following yonder star for quite a while. No Amazon fulfillment centers back then.

When I was a child, you had to plan your gift giving ahead of time. Stores were not open in the evening, they closed at noon on Saturday and were absolutely closed on Sunday, and this was Chicago, a major metropolitan city! You wrapped your own gifts, usually in the funny papers. You delivered presents personally or stood in line at the post office. Last-minute gifts cost a fortune to send!

Aside from the presents in your stocking, there were, usually, just one or two presents per child left by Santa under the tree. About the highest tech gift was an erector set. Today’s cornucopia of gifts include computers, tablets, mobile phones, digital cameras, robotic toys, drones, etc. (For sure, not the coveted “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle” from the 1983 film, A Christmas Story.

Today, online shopping is a 24/7 experience and has made picking out a gift and delivering it possible without leaving your house. The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted an already exploding cyber-shopping style into more the norm than the 16% online shopping of the pre-virus year. Still, it’s so fun to poke around Topanga
Homegrown and the other local stores, see your neighbors, get a hug and feel the Christmas spirit. Just sayin’...

Still the Same…
Christmas lights have evolved from candles to LED extravaganza light shows operated from a cell phone. You can attend holiday parties on Zoom and even worship in cyberspace. Oh, yes, things have changed but let me share something with you. The Christmas Spirit, that’s what stays the same. Classic values of kindness, generosity, compassion and love stay the same.
Every Christmas morning, I get up at daybreak. I go out on my deck, and listen. I hear the beautiful, quiet hush of Christmas. I hear peace. It only lasts until 7 a.m. Then lovely sounds of life rise up from the Canyon as children discover Christmas morning, and I pray a very old, traditional, unchanged prayer… Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.
Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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December 24, 2021