The pallid, geometric decor of the unaltered holoroom mimicked the mediocrity of the evening for the Edwards family. They lounged on the body forming furniture and passively watched the atmospheric engineering report. The holographic reporter relayed the climatic controls for the upcoming days.
"We’ve seeded the clouds to induce a light snow around 7:30 this evening. It should provide the perfect ambiance for tomorrow’s winter holiday. For the holiday itself we plan to-"
"There is an incoming hologram from the Mitchells," the domestic control center’s feminine voice informed.
"Those are the neighbors down the street," Stuart said with an inquisitive glance toward his wife, Mary. "Play hologram," he instructed the control center.
Instantly, the Mitchells’ images materialized in the holoroom dressed for a winter rendezvous. The four-member family burst into a chorus of carols including classics like "Deck the Halls" and "Happy Holidays," as well as new songs like "Embrace the Joy." Their harmonically modified, pitch perfect voices resounded throughout the acoustically mastered room. Mary, Stuart, and their children embraced the massaging sounds of the choral ensemble. Mary relished the quaint conclusion of three-year old Billy Mitchell tipping his 19th century top hat.
"That was so thoughtful of the Mitchells," Mary said. "It really gets me in the holiday mood."
"I know what you mean, dear," Stuart replied. "Why don’t we indulge our senses a little more this holiday. Computer: activate nostalgic holiday program number 2."
At the drop of his final syllable the holoroom transformed into a traditional Midwestern home of the mid-1900’s. A rustic, brick fireplace housed crackling, yellow flames that invited the shadows to dance. A polished oak mantle supported a matching timepiece whose edges gracefully curved downward creating the illusion of oneness with the mantle itself. Four cherry-red stockings hung down about a foot and a half from the mantle’s base. A flagstone hearth extended from the fireplace and was partially covered by an autumn colored oval floor rug.
Part of the exterior wall receded into itself unveiling a five by ten picture window. The mantle clock chimed at the half hour and the seeded clouds released their light snow as if on cue. The Edwards’ children scurried to the window and pressed their noses against the chilly glass and watched each flake decorate the pane with its own unique design. Mary’s grandfather watched the youthful enthusiasm of his great-grandchildren while he rocked in a holographic lazy boy.
Tommy turned toward his great-grandpa and inquired, "Did you like the Mitchell’s holographic caroling, great grandpa?"
"You know, Tommy, when I was a little boy we used to go caroling in person. It was a dying activity, but we were one of the few families who still did it. We weren’t pitch perfect, but it was real and personal."
"Didn’t you use your harmonic modifiers, Great-Grandpa?" Tommy asked.
"No, we didn’t have such things back then. We used our own unmodified voices for better or worse. Frankly, I don’t think we sounded too bad. And if we did mess up, it didn’t really matter, because the people knew we cared."
"Weren’t you embarrassed?" Susan asked.
"I think that’s what made it meaningful. We risked embarrassment because we wanted to share some Christmas joy. It made people feel special. And besides, Christmas is a message worth sharing no matter the embarrassment."
Stuart interjected, "Christmas is what people called the Winter Holiday years ago, kids. With so many different beliefs today, we avoid offending anyone by calling it the Winter Holiday."
"How that saddens me," Great-Grandpa continued. "You see, the first carol was sung by the angels when Jesus was born. They sang, ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace and goodwill to men.’ What makes Christmas so special is that God didn’t send a hologram, but came in the flesh as one of us. God loved us in person and that story should be told in person."
The Edwards’ children bowed their heads and contemplated Great-Grandpa’s words. Then Tommy looked up and asked, "Mom and Dad could we go caroling for real?"
"I think that would be a great idea," Mary said, "and we’ll leave the harmonic modifiers at home. Computer: end nostalgic holiday program number 2." The room immediately returned to its unmodified form and Mary, Stuart, and the two children attached their thermal adjusters in order to deal with the winter chill. On their way out, Mary looked up to heaven and said, "Thanks, Grandpa."
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