10 Ways Technology Is Transforming the Holidays

VIDEO: Online Christmas Trees

This is not your father's Christmas.

Time with family and friends, festive decorations, decadent meals and good cheer might still make for a merry holiday season. But the increasingly digitized and pixelated celebrations of today seem like a far cry from the quaint Norman Rockwell scenes of yesteryear.

The Internet, smartphones, social networking services and other innovations are putting high-tech twists on a whole range of holiday traditions.

Take a look below at a list of 10 ways technology is changing the holidays.

1. Christmas Trees Now Just a Few Clicks Away

It's still as much a symbol of Christmas as ever, but, nowadays, it's the Web -- not just the family wagon -- that helps people choose their holiday tree.

Costco started selling trees online a couple of years ago but, last month, Target joined the ranks of retailers willing to bring the holiday tradition into the digital age.

The National Christmas Tree Association told the Chicago Tribune that the number of association members that offer online sales has increased in recent years. But, convention hounds, don't despair.

According to Harris Interactive polls conducted for the National Christmas Tree Association, only 3 percent of the 28 million to 30 million farm-grown trees are sold online.

2. No Change for the Salvation Army? Just Charge It

Next time the Salvation Army Santa chases you down, saying you're out of cash can't be an excuse for not contributing.

For the first time, bell ringers toting the charity's iconic red kettles will be able to accept credit cards at locations nationwide.

Sally Gress, director of development for the Salvation Army of Broward County, Fla., told the Miami Herald that the credit card machines usually net larger donations. The average cash contribution is $2, but credit card donors typically give $15.

"I think it's great we're moving to more high-tech,'' she said. "Who goes shopping with a wad of cash anymore?''

Is Technology Challenging Tradition?

3. The Annual Christmas Letter Fends Off Facebook

Annual holiday letters made sense when families didn't have Facebook to help them keep in touch. But now that daily status updates share news of everything from family vacations to college acceptances to wedding engagements, do we still need the yearly snail mail missive?

In a recent editorial blog post, the Christian Science Monitor asked "Will Facebook Spell the End of Christmas Letters?"

The U.S. Postal Service expects greeting cards and letters to drop from 3 billion to 2.9 billion between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Christian Science Monitor reports. But the writer, Francine Kiefer, said she'll likely include a real letter inside only half of the cards she sends out.

Still, she said, although Facebook offers constant connection, it doesn't constitute significant correspondence.

"Facebook skates over, it doesn't dive deep. It's crumbs, not a thick slice of Christmas stolen," she said. "Hmmm. Go deep. My friends and family might like that. Historians will, too."

Holiday Caroling Goes High-Tech

4.Cyber Christmas Caroling

If you're too cold to bring some musical cheer to neighbors, hop online and warm up your vocal chords for former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee's Virtual Christmas Carol.

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