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Practical Techie: Digital Christmas during a global pandemic

Some 160 countries will celebrate the Christmas festivities once again this year, this time amidst a global pandemic. As with other calamities and situations, the web is always is a haven for cheer and holiday spirit. 

This is not the first time a virus has dampened the festivities on a worldwide scale for humanity. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was marked with a low mood and grievous loss, claiming as many as 50 million victims.

In that year, many returning soldiers from the frontlines of WWI, and public celebrations for the end of the conflict in spite of the quarantines, sadly spread the terrible flu even further.  Then, as now, masks and curfews took a role in political and cultural wars. Then as now, an antidote vaccine becomes the best Christmas gift for humanity.

Then, as now, families will get together with many empty chairs around the dinner table because distancing will require everyone to stay put, or at least diminish get-togethers to a nuclear family level.

Pandemics don’t tend to go down quietly and in the case of 1918, it took two years for the deadly strain of flu to fade enough for humans to feel safe, mainly by tribal immunization.

But, back to Christmas…

X-MAS – Christmas is a very Christian holiday, but it’s celebrated by most religions and even atheists. It has many different names and celebrated in all sorts of manners worldwide. Yet, no matter the label or the style of observance, the Christmas season is universally one of fraternity, good feelings, solemnity for some and merriment for others. Or, ideally, a mix of both and all.

UNIVERSALITY – Almost all countries with full religious freedom, at least some official tolerance, have Christmas celebrations. The list goes from Angola to Zimbabwe. For example, places like Uruguay or Zambia, Christmas Day is designated as Family Day. In Vietnam, Christmas Eve is the most significant. The main avenues are closed to vehicle traffic and Vietnamese people walk around in the best clothes. The next day, only Christians go to the Catholic Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. In Jordan and Pakistan, it is only an official holiday on Dec. 25. Nothing else. No festivities.

WEB – One online sites is whychristmas.com where you take a digital journey through the different Christmas cultures all over the world. Curiosities such as that the holidays in Jamaica are called Jankanoo, and it includes National Boxing Day.

Some other website leads us to celebrate Christmas in good cyber mood. At this site, santaexperience.com, the visitor can take a virtual elf-guided tour of Santa’s North Pole abode, and even talk with Mrs. Claus. Or at this site, jingerling.com, children can talk on the phone with a live Santa Claus, either in English or Spanish — and though affordable, it’s not free.

NEARBY — Closer to us, there are several places on the internet that help to evoke the “Navidad” traditions. For example: decimania.com offers descriptions of what is typical of yesteryear and the present and offers folkloric music collections. Another page:    tallerdecuatropr.com has Puerto Rican music galore, including instrumental scores for those that like to sing decimas, but don’t have a musician on board.

Those less nostalgic about the old days can go to Popular.com to hear more contemporary holiday tunes, through the “specials” produced every year by the bank.

WAVES — Another media option is Radio Universidad de Puerto Rico, the cultural station that strives every year to include Christmas programming.

One of the most visited pages by those who like themed music waves is Internet Radio. It contains a collection of 82 stations scattered throughout the planet that transmit Christmas music between the formats of the different geographical cultures and the varied musical genres. They range from the traditional, to the pop music of these times.

There are stations specialized in Christmas jazz such as smoothjazzflorida.com or holiday songs from the 60’s and 70’s on www.1fm.org.

Finally, if the music you want to listen to is Puerto Rico’s, this website, radiosdepuertorico.com, is a directory of stations in the FM band that broadcast music to your computer or cell phone.  Happy listening to you!

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.

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