The holidays are upon us, and whether you’re donning an ugly Christmas sweater and singing carols or just playing up Santa’s visit for your kids, we’ve found a bunch of Christmas apps to get you in the holiday spirit.
Going to a holiday party and need help? Check out our Holiday Gift Guide, our take on the Best tech gifts for any budget, and the Best smartphone stocking stuffers. Still agonizing about what to get for family and loved ones? There’s always the gift of Disney+.
NORAD Tracks Santa Claus
NORAD Tracks Santa Claus is the official app of the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) Tracks Santa program, established in 1955 to track Santa’s whereabouts around the globe as he delivers presents to kids, naughty and nice, — but only if they’re asleep. The free app for iOS and Android links to the famous website that lets you and the kiddies enjoy a countdown clock to Christmas Eve and also includes an arcade with a different and challenging game to play every day until Christmas Eve. You can also listen to Christmas music, watch videos, and read books. On Christmas Eve, the program starts tracking Santa’s travels on a route known only to him, and presumably, his reindeer crew.
This fun app is an advent calendar for your phone that displays the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds until Christmas. You can choose the theme you like, and there’s a new gift to unwrap every day, giving you a fresh Christmas-themed wallpaper to boost your seasonal spirit, along with a festive fact, and a link to a Christmas song. It’s free and there are no ads, but you have to buy the premium version to get high-quality wallpapers. The iOS link here is for a different app of the same name, which is a little more basic, but it also counts down to Christmas Day.
There are quite a few apps that riff on the “naughty or nice” game format, but here’s the most popular one for iOS. Basically, it’s intended for parents who want to have some fun with their kids, and who may also want to use the authority of Santa to induce their offspring to behave. The idea is that your kids listen to a video introduction from Santa, and then place one of their fingers on the touchscreen, which then “scans” it (not really). The app then produces a verdict, telling your child via colorful special effects that they’re either “naughty” or “nice.” It sounds simple, but it’s a lot of fun, while parents can set judgments to random or choose only “naughty” or “nice.” This particular app is available only for iOS, but a well-rated Android alternative is Naughty or Nice Photo Scanner Game.
Christmas Wallpaper 4K
Check out this collection of charming Christmas background wallpapers that will inspire the magic of the Christmas season every time you glance at your smartphone. The wallpapers are high-resolution images in Full HD or 4K and they look great on Super AMOLED screens. The app features dozens of Christmas wallpaper themes ranging from abstract and vintage designs, Christmas gifts and Santa images to Christmas tree and cake wallpapers. You’ll find a sackful of enchanting holiday-related background images for free in this app.
Yasa Pets Christmas
Combining cats and Christmas = cuteness overload. We want to say it’s for the kids, but you can’t resist the little felines, either (it will be our secret). This delightful app is a digital dollhouse that allows players to tap and explore as the cat family on screen celebrates Christmas Day. You can open presents, dress the cats up (which you absolutely can’t do with your own Fluffy), set the table for dinner, and lots more. It’s an ideal option for young kids and cat lovers looking to relax with a Christmassy app.
Christmas Booth: Photo Fun
Disguise yourself as a snowman or turn your cat into a reindeer — who will be able to tell the difference? With Christmas Booth, you take a picture or just grab one from your camera roll and choose from a host of Christmas-themed stickers to turn anyone into a Christmas character. You can also send your photo via , Twitter, or Facebook. It’s compatible with iMessage, too, so you can use the stickers there and message your friends.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Help Charlie Brown and his friends find the meaning of Christmas. Narrated by Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown, and featuring the original soundtrack from the holiday special, this Christmas app transforms the classic story into an interactive storybook with animations that bring the charming illustrations to life. You can also use the app to create your own Charlie Brown Christmas Tree with over 150 ornaments and decorations. There’s an educational element, too, as you can tap individual words to hear them, and there’s support for word and note highlighting. This app, which costs $5, also comes bundled with an iMessage sticker pack.
Christmas Sweeper 4
Candy Crush fans, get ready — Christmas Sweeper 4 is in the house, and it’s like your favorite game, except with a Christmas twist. The game comes in the mold of a classic match-three puzzler, letting you clear blocks to claim a variety of hidden, Xmas-themed items. Light candles, clear the snow to uncover gifts, catch jumping snowmen, fill up gift bags, drop Santa down the chimney, and much more creative mischief. Make matches of four and five to create bombs and power-ups. The promise of rewards of cookies and soda will keep you busy for a long time after Christmas. Check out our picks of the best iPhone games and best Android games for non-seasonal alternatives.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss’ beloved How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been made into an interactive book for kids. If you need something to keep them occupied while waiting to open their presents, this $6 app lets them follow the Grinch as he attempts to keep Christmas from coming. They can play seven different mini-games like Memory Match, Jigsaw Puzzle, Word Search, and Sequence. Tap on pictures to show new words, enjoy the narration, and watch out for the custom sound effects.
This app helps you create a hilarious elf dance video starring yourself, family members (including the four-legged ones), and friends. You replace the Elf faces with the faces of up to five people or pets. Once the faces are set, you select a dance theme, and the app creates a comical dance video. Once it’s done, you can share the video on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also purchase additional videos featuring different themes.
A Message From Santa!
The kids are gonna love Message From Santa! They can call Santa, get video messages, record a wish list, and hear what Santa is doing. This app also has a Santa Chatbot that chats with you, just like you’re talking with the real Santa. You can also request a call from Santa, and you can let your children record a voice message for Santa. This app is free, though you can pay to unlock more options to better personalize the messages for your child.
PNP Portable North Pole
Bring a smile to your kid’s face with their own personalized message from Santa. Portable North Pole has been around for a very long time, and it’s magical as always. Input some information about your child and a personalized video from Santa will play. There are some activities included in the app, but the main idea is for the kids to find out from Santa if they’re on the naughty or nice list. This app has some in-app purchases that include a reaction recorder and storytime. A new family option features videos where Santa speaks to a group by saying, “Hello, my friends!”
The Christmas List
This is a super useful app to help you keep track of your Christmas shopping. List everyone you need to buy gifts for, and then set a budget for them. Let’s say that you add a friend. You’ll walk into the store, tap your friend’s name, and you’ll see the list of items you want to buy for this person, and, of course, the budget. You can then tap on the items as you buy them, and when you go back to the main screen, you can see how much you have left to spend on your gifts. For $3, it’s a great way to keep track of what to buy, and most not go over budget. While this app isn’t available for Android, a great Android alternative is Christmas Gift List.