It's a Wonderful Life

How the Internet is celebrating the holidays this year. 

In our nostalgic, Norman Rockwell past, Main Street was festooned with snow, decorated with boughs of evergreen, and dotted with Santa Clauses (Santas Claus?) ringing bells. Citizens bustled hither and yon buying last-minute gifts, but everyone was a little nicer to each other, and quick to offer a politically correct, but sincere “Happy holidays!”

Believe it or not, in our socially networked, GIF-animated present, the same spirit is alive and well—even if it looks a little different (often 8-bit) and has sacrificed a little bit of sincerity to gain a little camp.

Whether you want your heart warmed or your funny bone tickled, whether you come down on the side of nice or naughty, Twitter’s got everything this holiday—from Santa and his elves to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

And if lords-a-leaping and maids-a-milking don’t seem relevant to you anymore, you can celebrate the 12 days of Christmas instead with, that’s right, cats in Christmas trees, stringray bombs, and the other 10 best memes of the year.


More and more of our last-minute gift scramble is happening online. You won’t have to fight for the last parking spot with some homicidal soccer mom wound tight by the pressure of creating a Martha Stewart Christmas in the all-too-brief window before the kids turn into a bunch of little Grinches teenagers. On the other hand, when you buy your present, you actually have your present.

Online, so often buying your present is just the beginning. You buy the gift and then you wait. Thus begins the suspended drama, wondering if and when it will ship. And once it ships, will it hit “weather” and be delayed? Is there any feeling of powerlessness that matches the dismay you feel staring at an order status page that still reads, “Ships in 2 – 3 weeks” four weeks after you’ve placed the order?

Do you go with the unique gift from the random crafter on Etsy (who may or may not have been able to get extra help for the holidays) or with the major retailer you thought you could rely on? It turns out that when it comes to shipping times, you’re rolling the dice either way.


But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without crafts. And ugly sweaters. OK, confession: I have never seen someone I knew in an ugly Christmas sweater. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen one outside of a movie. And yet I feel an odd yearning for a past I may only have imagined. That said, I am NOT about to wear such a sweater IRL. Fortunately, the good folks at Skip N Whistle on Etsy have me covered for an actually viable option. If one of their Christmas-sweater t-shirts is not in my stocking this year, I will be having a very cranky Christmas. #justsayin #fairwarning

Thanks to many other charmers including the likes of Dr. Who crocheted ornaments and 8-bit heros, whatever your nostalgia, Etsy has you covered.

Craft and camp come together in videos like Rhett & Link’s “Christmas Sweatz.” The YouTube video is half instructional, half instant Christmas (and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa) classic. If you want an easy way to dress for the occasion on Christmas morning, it’s a great alternative to the same old Christmas duds.


The holiday season, at its finest, is about nothing more elaborate than caring for others. The Salvation Army has nothing on the Internet when it comes to the spirit of giving (not that it’s a competition). Earlier this month, ProZacDose shared his troubles with Reddit. He did not get an expected promotion, his brother was murdered, he had to take a month off work because of an injury, and he’s far behind on his bills.

“I just wanted to vent, and perhaps cry a little, for the pain I feel for my kids. I hate myself that I could of not done better, or I could have a better job with more income. I am supposed to be a father and a provider and I can’t even do that. I am dreading Christmas morning, and wish I can just escape all of this.”

Redditors lined up to pay his family’s bills, buy his kids a tree and an Xbox, and provide the Christmas he was afraid he could not.

Of course, it would not be the Internet without a few people also jumping in to flame the guy. But ProZacDose took it in stride: “For those sending negative hate, threatening e-mails and messages, and even death threats, please put that negative energy into helping others.”

It also wouldn’t be the Internet if someone didn’t suggest this might be a scam. Of course, being the Internet, maybe it was all a scam. But that’s not really the point. The point is all the people—anonymous Internet users—who were moved to help someone they believed needed help.

“As I am reading this through watery eyes to my 12 year old son to explain to him that other kids are less fortunate when he wants every toy shown on TV, he told me to give his presents to your kids.”

Whatever else may be true in the uncertain world that is the Internet, that one kid, at least, had the Christmas of his life.

Photograph from It’s a Wonderful Life (RKO/Paramount, 1946)
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