While thoughts have turned to how we celebrate Christmas in 2021, the underlying drivers of change to life, society, and business will inevitably lead to shifts in how we celebrate future Christmases. Inspired by the Christmas 2040 Informing Choices Mini-Pod podcast series, here are 10 drivers that could have a significant impact on the seasonal festivities in 2040.
1) Climate Change
change will continue to have an increasingly significant impact on our lives.
More regular extreme weather events could make it more problematic to travel
over the holiday season in some regions. The idea of snowy Christmases in many
places, is likely to be confined to history, while in other locations, changes
to rainfall patterns might have a devastating impact on Christmas tree growers,
drastically limiting the number and quality of trees available. Availability to
trees for the domestic market might be restricted to subscription or rental services
at premium prices, where trees are returned to the ground after use and
continue to grow between Christmases.
Generation Z’s and Generation A’s,
adolescents to 40 year olds are likely to reject the environmental implications
of plastic-based trees and other seasonal decorations, opting instead for
technology based solutions; virtual reality and holograms for example. The
sustainability focus on the gifts we give and receive is likely to include reducing
festive waste as a result of environmentally conscious gifting through clarity of
a gift’s environmental footprint from manufacture to distribution, recyclability
or reuse built into the product design and manufacturing process of the gift,
and easily recyclable gift-wrap.
3) A Human-Centric Christmas
traditions are often at the heart of Christmas celebrations, and while the
notion of “family” is set to continue to change, it will remain at the core of
future festive seasons. A focus on togetherness, relationships, connections,
and kindness will be sustained through personal interaction and where needed
the use of immersive technology to re-connect with family and friends. Virtual
reality and holograms will allow us to re-connect to our ancestors, and robot
family members – perhaps a robot pet – might form an important part of the
family in 2040. But for some, genuine human contact and interaction will still
be the ultimate technology-detox; a special human treat for Christmas.
4) Post-Christian society
towards a post-Christian society in Europe and the US suggest the potential for
the decline in cultural and religious traditions around Christmas. However,
could the Christmas period become more than a religious festival as a direct
result of these trends? With the changing nature of religious belief, might the
focus of the Christmas period shift more broadly to an inclusive festive period
with the celebration of love, kindness, and connection behind a multi-cultural social
celebration. Perhaps the focus of post-Christian society might be the creation
of more relevant Christmases in the future.
5) A Cure for Ageing
growth in investment in anti-ageing technologies and the increasing knowledge
being gathered about how and why we age, the acknowledgement of ageing as a
disease or condition suitable for treatment rather than an inevitability could
change how elderly people engage with family members over Christmas. While anti—ageing
pharmaceutical products might not completely rewind the clock, perhaps
treatments will be effective and safe at significantly slowing down the effects
of ageing. This could mean that the new 70+ year olds in 2040 are able to enjoy
the physical side of Christmas playing with their grandchildren, nephews and
nieces in person or through virtual and augmented reality games, rather than
face the prospect of watching on from the armchair.
6) The Metaverse and Extended Reality
By 2040, we might not be limited to the real physical world to celebrate Christmas. Extended reality technologies and the metaverse represent real opportunities to enjoy new experiences. The metaverse could allow us to go anywhere and be anything; virtual trips to Lapland, helping Santa in his workshop, go on an adventure dressed as our favourite character from history or the movies, or experience a hot Australian Christmas Day. We would be limited only by our imagination.
personal level, we could re-live and experience past Christmas memories,
re-connect with long-lost relatives, and even design our own, unique
traditional Christmas celebration from many years before we were even born. Virtual
and augmented reality would allow us to party with widely dispersed family
members, play with our grandkids in the metaverse, and even pull virtual
crackers with them. Traditional TV would be a thing of the past as we watch and
engage with immersive programming characterised by multi-sensory and
The idea of giving and receiving gifts is likely to remain in the future, but what constitutes a gift and how we decide on what to give may change. We might see hyper-personalisation where the Christmas App will match the gift-giver’s gift selection criteria with the recipient’s preferences based on their social media and browsing habits. The gift would be automatically selected and delivered by autonomous drone. “Just in time” might mean our “out-sourced Christmas shopping” is done and delivered on Christmas Eve itself.
prop gifts might become common place as many gifts will be digital / virtual.
The prop or fake gift would retain the physical act of gift giving but simply
be representative of the real gift; digital real estate, digital art, or a
metaverse experience, for example. More eco-conscious gifting might see personally
made gifts, tree planting, acts of kindness, or environmentally friendly
gestures “given” as gifts. And the opening of all gifts might be shared with
relatives hundreds or thousands of miles away through the use of virtual
reality and holographic technology, allowing us to feel like we are together in
the same room.
8) The Physical Environment
While much of
the festive experience might be in the metaverse, the physical home environment
will likely remain a focus for many people. But even the physical home
environment will be enhanced through the deployment of new technologies. The
Christmas decorations could be programmable. Some will be 3D printed, including
lighting displays for inside and outside the home. Christmas trees will be
grown over just one day from fast-growing materials. For those families still
able to find and afford real Christmas trees, in-home air quality and humidity
will be carefully managed to minimise the shedding of pine needles.
9) Festive Food
The kitchen will be another
place where future technology plays a significant role. While some food may be
3D printed, recipes and cooking instructions could be downloaded and passed to
the smart cooker. During cooking, smart utensils will monitor the food
preparation to ensure that the guests sit down to the perfect Christmas meal of
plant based food or in-vitro meat.
10) Smart Christmas
A future smart Christmas could be based around the frictionless Christmas App. The app will support the management of guest lists, meal planning (to suit guests’ preferences), gift planning, and automated shopping and delivery.
Conversation topics can be difficult to navigate when family and friends come together so infrequently, so your personal AI will monitor the conversation with supporting imaging technology to check for body language changes as the discussion progresses, advising you when topics might lead to conflict, and so helping to ensure a harmonious seasonal gathering.
features in the home will adapt the environment to create the perfect theme for
the mood. We might be able to smell and touch the holographic Christmas tree which
will be decorated in tune with the rest of the house by the Christmas App.
I would like to acknowledge the following people for taking the time to share their ideas on my podcast as part of the Christmas 2040 Informing Choices Mini-Pod Mini-Series. Their foresight, ideas, and creative thinking are the inspiration behind this article. They are:
Caldera, an organizational change specialist
Gina Clifford, a strategic communicator and futurist
Sylvia Gallusser, a global futurist
Joana Lenkova, a strategist and author
Rohit Talwar, a keynote speaker and global futurist
Alex Whittington, a futurist, educator, writer, and researcher