A traditional Christmas dinner where people live in the moment and actually talk to each other, rather than their ‘followers’ is important, writes Jim Duffy.
It’s Christmas Day and you are gearing up for the big one. Yes, that Christmas dinner that you have made from scratch. Turkey, gravy, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, roast potatoes and all that goes with it. The Prosecco is chilling nicely in the fridge and the table is set. You are ready and really looking forward to a wonderful occasion with family and friends.
Then the moment arrives. You call everyone forward and each takes a seat at the table. It’s time to pull the crackers and put on those festive Christmas hats, telling silly jokes. The cheer is good and everyone is together in the moment. Well, maybe not everyone ...
As one of the family pulls out a mobile phone and starts tapping away, you now have a decision to make: are you allowing tech at the Christmas dinner?
With many truly amazing memories of Christmas dinners from when I was a young boy with my grandmas to when I had youngsters and their grandmas would come over, from watching the Wizard of Oz to listening to Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas message, the whole day was focussed around being with those your love.
All the wrapping paper was now in black bags – recycled these days – and the oven was on for the turkey. And then it was time for toys to be put down, TVs to be switched off with maybe some background Christmas music chiming away at a low level.
That is as technical as it ever got in my house – until the big tech companies introduced us to smartphones and tablets. And now the game has changed.
Whether it is Christmas for two or a large gathering, the whole point is to have everyone there present and correct, and feeling art-and-part of the celebration and dinner. Chatting and laughing and eating and appreciating those around us.
So, what happens when guests get out their mobiles and start texting their friends and photographing the turkey? Is this acceptable or a flagrant violation of the Christmas dinner code?
The problem is nowadays that if you, the host, make a ruling on tech at the dinner table, then you could be in danger of being a ‘Bah humbug’ spoilsport. A dictatorial despot who is enforcing anachronistic out-of-date rules upon your guests.
The snowflakes at the table might take real umbrage and decide to make a protest and not come back next year, opting to eat with other snowflakes at hipster eateries.
But, do not forget these particular snowflakes are your flesh and blood. And that’s the whole point of Christmas, is it not – family time?
It’s a tech tightrope and unless you make a stand, you will be caught in no-man’s land, flip-flopping on your decision. Maybe it’s time to compromise. After all, it’s all about goodwill and peace to all mankind right?
Maybe taking a picture of the turkey is actually okay. Maybe a short video of the turkey arriving at the table is okay. A few smartphone snaps of family and friends which can later be shared is okay.
Yes, perhaps a five-minute tech amnesty at the beginning of dinner is a wise move to capture the moment, without tech diminishing the whole event.
This might work and show everyone how progressive and amenable you are. But, when is the best time to make a ruling on this? I’d say early in the day, so that you set the expectation that phones are acceptable for a short period, but after that the dinner table is tech free. Good move. This way the techies and Gen Z’s feel that you have catered for their needs, while the oldies appreciate that times have changed, but not for the worst. But, you do have to make a stand ...
As tech has permeated so much of our lives osmotically, driving its tentacles into our social fabric, it has created its own place at so many metaphorical Christmas dinners. There’s now tech on the bus and train as people tap away constantly. And of course there’s always the loud people chatting on their phones with not a care about who else is nearby.
Tech is in the pub as people get on the wifi and communicate with those who are not in the pub. I always find this ironic as one either goes to the pub for a quiet drink or heads here to meet friends and be in the moment with them.
Tech is in the street as you move to avoid those glued to heir phones walking straight for you, oblivious to the carnage they are causing. Tech is in the car, it’s at work, it’s really just everywhere. So, why not at the Christmas table?
For me, this particular dinner is one of those meals or gatherings that epitomises tradition. And despite what you may be thinking, some traditions are worth keeping – traditional.
After all, it is only a couple of hours in a whole year, when something special happens. My memories are special and I want to keep them that way.
So, maybe the art of the compromise may allow some decent photos to be taken at the beginning of dinner. But, once that has been done, then it’s conversation time. It’s time to chat with the old and the young. It’s time to find out about each other gain and enjoy the warmth of human interaction.
I’ll live with tech in all other arenas in my life. But, this year there will be no tech at the Christmas dinner at Casa Del Duff.
People chatting and being in the moment is just too important ... That’s a memory that will never fade.