With Christmas just around the corner, the idea of buying a virtual Christmas card from your favourite celebrity or even someone you have never met is an option that is gaining popularity.
A few weeks ago, for example, a woman in the UK who had purchased an expensive $150,000 Christmas card was invited to spend $10,000 of her own money on the card.
The card was so expensive that she had to buy a £100,000 (AUD) house in the US.
Another gift-giving enthusiast, who also wanted to remain anonymous, told New Scientist that she would like to buy her own Christmas card and send it to people in her country.
“I’m not a Christmas card fan, but I like to give back to the people in my country,” she said.
A couple in Germany bought a €400,000 ($470,000) holiday card from the singer Elton John and spent $2,400 ($2,900) on it.
“It was a big deal, but it was only for me,” the couple, who requested to remain unnamed, told the magazine.
“But it was an easy decision.
I am a Christmas fanatic.
We’re lucky to have someone who is passionate about it.”
In other countries, however, the trend for virtual Christmas cards is growing, with one survey by the company Digital Media and Digital Entertainment Association (DMDAA) revealing that around 75 per cent of US consumers want a Christmas gift from someone other than their family or friends.
The survey found that 85 per cent wanted to give the gift to someone in their own country, with only 10 per cent wanting to give it to someone from abroad.
“A lot of people don’t know about the importance of Christmas,” said the survey’s co-author, Daniela Vincenza.
“And they don’t have time to prepare a gift.
They want to send it on Christmas Eve.”
Vincenzia believes that many of the people who would prefer to give a gift to a stranger on Christmas Day are not aware of the gift’s importance.
“There is a big gap between the idea that you should do this, and the reality,” she told New Sense.
“This gap is huge.
If you do not have time for yourself and your family, you can’t do this.”
But the realisation that people are spending money on a gift that they can’t afford, especially to a friend or relative, can also make them reconsider.
For many people, a Christmas holiday is an important part of their year.
But for others, Christmas is not just about the holiday itself.
The lack of financial resources, such as a holiday, means that many families struggle to cope with the demands of a Christmas season that they have never experienced before.
“We are all dealing with this at a really vulnerable time, and I think that’s a huge issue,” Vincenzi said.
“So many of us have to look at what we’re spending money for, and why it’s being spent on something that is not even necessary.”
The UK Christmas Card Challenge, which was launched in the wake of the UK Government’s financial crisis, aims to help those who can afford a Christmas vacation or a gift for someone else, by offering them the opportunity to purchase a digital card.
A survey by DMDAA found that over half of UK consumers are willing to buy their own Christmas cards for just €1, but this could be a daunting prospect for those who are struggling to pay for the holiday.
“When people are living with a child or a relative who doesn’t have a Christmas or Christmas card, it’s not always easy to find a gift,” said DMDDA’s co‑founder, Simon Williams.
“They’re looking for something, and there’s a big risk of not getting the right gift.”
Williams and Vincena also want to make Christmas more inclusive by giving away gift certificates that are available for people of any age.
“For people who are financially disadvantaged, there is a sense of responsibility for the people around them, and this is a great way to give to someone who doesn: a Christmas present, a gift certificate, or something to help them cope,” Williams said.
Williams hopes the gift cards will help to change the mindset of people who might not normally be able to afford to go to a Christmas party.
“The idea that they are going to be the only one to get a gift, and it’s going to cost them all their hard-earned money, it really does feel a bit patronising,” he said.
And while Christmas is a time of celebration, many people in the world struggle with issues that affect their everyday lives.
“People feel like they’re not really happy, or they’re spending too much money, or their work doesn’t go well,” Williams told NewSense.
“What we are trying to do is help people feel a little bit more hopeful about the future.”