The holidays are officially upon us. That means family time, festive celebrations, joyous music and an overabundance of delicious food. To help get you through the holidays, we compiled a list of the best iOS apps to make the most of the season.
Whether you’re looking for a way to provide some entertainment for the kids, hosting friends or family, or just want a way to spread some festive cheer, we’ve got your tree trimmed, so to speak.
Best Christmas apps
Fun Christmas apps
Santa Video Call and Tracker
This app offers one of the most feature-rich sets of Santa-related entertainment around. The Santa Video Call and Tracker is a one-stop location to keep tabs on the jolly old elf’s sleigh, enjoy a video call with the big man, or see how you score on his legendary list. You can also do a naughty or nice scan to ensure that Santa knows how good you’ve been this year.
The app also offers a ton of other great “North Pole Tools.” They make it easy to Elfify yourself or test out Santa’s beard on your own face. For the more social-network inclined, checking Elfbook (Facebook for residents of the North Pole) lets you see the excitement of Santa’s littler helpers as the holiday approaches.
As a word for the wise: Parents should be sure to do the initial setup before letting their kids loose in the app.
Download: Santa Video Call and Tracker from the App Store
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The holidays are full of wonderful stories of love and cheer. One of our favorites is the story of the the Grinch. The How the Grinch Stole Christmas app offers an immersive experience of the Dr. Seuss classic.
The animated book offers a gamified version of the story, allowing kids of all ages to hear the tale of the Grinch while collecting rewards on every page. With options to have the book read to you, as well as auto-play or “read myself,” everyone can find a way to enjoy the tale at their own pace.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the perfect seasonal story for kids and families. Or for the Scrooge in your life who needs to get into the holiday spirit.
Price: 99 cents
Download: How the Grinch Stole Christmas from the App Store
Maybe you recall seeing those ridiculous dancing elf videos with your friends’ faces on them around this time of year. With the ElfYourself app, you can create your own, directly on your iOS device.
Allowing you to upload images from your camera roll or take them directly with your device’s camera, you can add up to five “elves” to a dance scenes. From there, the app will impose your face, and the faces of your friends, directly onto hilarious dancing elf videos.
If you really want an immersive elfing experience, the ElfYourself app also offers AR dances through in-app purchase. These allow you to enjoy adorable or ridiculous dancing elves right on your desk, table, floor or any flat surface.
You can share any of the videos you create to various social platforms or save them to your camera roll. The ElfYourself app is a great way to lighten the mood or have a laugh with friends this holiday season.
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
Download: ElfYourself from the App Store
Practical Christmas apps
Pandora Streaming Music
Without music, the holidays are just a regular family gathering. Pandora, the streaming music service, is the perfect way to truly get into the Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) spirit.
Unlike traditional streaming music services, Pandora focuses on creating customized “radio stations” based on songs, genres or artists you love. This means that you can choose a holiday sing-a-long, a modern Christmas tune, or even a symphonic rendition of your favorite song.
From there, Pandora will create hours of music, designed to fit the theme of your musical selection. This makes it great for a day of festivities with family or an evening of caroling in your living room.
Best of all, the more you listen to your station on Pandora, the more feedback you give, and the more variety you add, the better it gets. Once your station is perfected, you’ll be able to enjoy holiday music of whatever flavor you prefer, whenever you want.
Download: Pandora Streaming Music from the App Store
Paprika Recipe Manager 3
Food is an incredibly important part of the holidays. From Christmas cookies to lutefisk, keeping track of your recipes, shopping list and holiday meal plans can be a hassle. Paprika (featured in our 50 Essential iOS Apps series) is the perfect kitchen helper to get you through the holidays.
Built as a way to store and access your recipes, the app allows you to create shopping lists based on recipe ingredients, as well as plan what meals you’re making when. With support for importing recipes from hundreds of websites, you can easily save the best recipes from anywhere on the web into a single place.
Paprika can also be incredibly useful when visiting your loved ones and trying to get that secret family lefse recipe. Simply create a new recipe, give it a title, and snap a photo of grandma’s index card to quickly save it for posterity in your virtual recipe book.
From there, you can enter additional details, tips or even digitize it for sharing with future generations. Best of all, Paprika isn’t just for your holiday recipes — it’s perfect for any recipe. That means this recipe app proves useful all year long!
Download: Paprika Recipe Manager 3 from the App Store
Bonus: NORAD Santa-tracking website!
NORAD Tracks Santa Claus
Coming from the official source of all things in the sky, the NORAD Tracks Santa Claus website allows you and your family to keep tabs on the jolliest man on earth. Not only is the site great for keeping tabs on St. Nick, it also features a countdown to Christmas and a selection of games and stories to enjoy with your family.
The site is free to access, works on your iPhone or iPad, and does not require an account, making it the perfect thing to let kids explore as Christmas morning approaches.
Try it: NORAD Tracks Santa Claus