By Chris Ciaccia
The holiday season is for spending time with one's family, gathering around the kitchen and living room, trading stories of the year past and what to look forward to for next year. Since some of that is incredibly boring, (and let's be honest, who wants to hear Aunt Edna's story about her cat one more time?) you can pull out your trusty iPhone to help entertain you until Kris Kringle is ready to leave presents under the tree.
Apple's (AAPL) App Store is loaded with Christmas-themed apps, with more than 6,000 of them at the touch of your fingers. Finding the ones you want to download and use might be a little tricky, especially when you have Uncle Eddie talking your ear off about his new motor home. Here are five iPhone apps to help make Christmas time a little more enjoyable.
Christmas® is the official Christmas and holiday app, that will keep you busy for hours on end until Santa rides his sleigh and delivers his bundle(s) of joy to your house. There are a multitude of things you can do with the Christmas app, including a Christmas countdown, and jigsaw puzzles featuring some of your favorite Christmas themes.
This app also allows you to add holiday ringtones to your phone, but the ringtones are at a cost, even though the app itself is free. There's also the ability to change up the emoticons on your phone, spreading some holiday cheer with the festive Christmas emoticons provided by the app. Lastly, this official app even allows you to download Christmas-themed wallpaper to give your iPhone that added Christmas spirit to get you in the mood to deck the halls with boughs of holly.
The Christmas app is compatible with all iPhones, ranging from the iPhone 3GS all the way to the iPhone 5. It's also available on the iPod Touch and iPad, and requires iOS 4.3 or later to download.
What's Christmas time without all your favorite holiday carols and Christmas songs by some of your favorite artists? Christmas RADIO provides a slew of stations that are as stuffed as your stockings will be, packed with hours of your favorite songs. There are over 50 stations to choose from as you sit down and enjoy all the holiday favorites and more.
Some of the more popular stations include Xmas in Frisko, Jazz Radio Christmas and Kristmas Kountry. Christmas RADIO has even provided a North Pole Radio station, broadcasting straight from North Pole. No word yet on whether you'll be able to hear Santa singing in the shower!
Christmas RADIO, like so many other music listening apps, is a free download, and provides countless hours of entertainment as you sit down by the fire with loved ones and enjoy the decorations, good food and holiday cheer being spread. It's compatible with all iPhones, and is optimized for Apple's latest offering, the iPhone 5. You need iOS 4.3 or later to enjoy all the sounds of Christmas RADIO.
NORAD Tracks Santa
What would Christmastime be without Santa Claus? What better way to know where he is then with the NORAD Tracks Santa app, the "official" way to keep Kris Kringle in your cross hairs.
Using the app from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), you can watch the countdown as Santa and his elves prepare the sleigh for the fateful flight, as he leaves the North Pole on Dec. 24, and delivers presents to boys and girls the world over. You can see where he was last spotted, and where's headed next. There are also a couple of fun games you can play on the app, including "Elf Toss" and "Thin Ice," as you help the Elves deliver the presents. There's also some tidbits in the app that helps you learn about NORAD, and what the government agency does to help protect the country.
Little children are sure to get a kick out of seeing where Santa has been and where he's headed, as they anticipate all the presents and joy they'll receive on Christmas morn (provided they've been good for goodness sake!!).
The free NORAD app is compatible with all iPhones, and is optimized for Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 6.
Christmas Cookie Maker
One of the best traditions of Christmas time is the cookies. There are a slew of different treats that families make over the holiday to make desert time more enjoyable than just your standard apple pie, cheesecake and a few boxes of generic cookies.
If you can't eat all the delicious treats this holiday season, that doesn't mean you can enjoy them! Use the Christmas Cookie Maker app to help add to your excitement this Christmastime, as you decorate your own cookies with a variety of toppings to spread that holiday cheer without all the calories!
You can choose from a variety of different cookies, including gingerbread men, snowmen, Santa Claus, ornaments and more. You can decorate the cookies however you like, adding a variety of candy, frosting, and nuts & fruit. Whether it's gum drops, gummy bears, gummy worms, or gummy soda (you can see that I'm kind of a fan of gummy), there are hundreds of different combinations to keep you and your children entertained for hours on end.
The Christmas Cookie app is available for all iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad versions. You need iOS 3.0 or later to run the Christmas Cookie Maker app and enjoy the cookies without seeing the scale move.
Christmas Tree Maker
Now that you've got all the food made, the presents wrapped, the music set up and the guests are arriving, you're set, right? Nope! You need the most important part: the tree!
The Christmas Tree Maker app allows you to decorate a virtual tree, or if you're so inspired, a blue print of how you'll decorate your tree in real life. This is a free app, but many of the options are in-app purchases, so be sure to note that prior to picking some of the amazing decorations to make your tree terrific.
You can do everything from selecting the perfect tree to adding a tree skirt and you can even place your tree wherever you want: in the living room or outside if you prefer. Next, you can hand up lights on the tree from just about every set you can imagine: white or colorful. There are any number of ways to set them, including doing it yourself, getting that customized look. Some of the lights even blink, so there's no shortage of ways to decorate the tree.
There's also a variety of ornaments to add to the tree, coming in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. There are candy canes, gingerbread men, country-themed ornaments and an assortment of garland that can fill you to your heart's content. You can really get as creative as you desire, and the only thing holding you back is your budget strings and time.
Once the tree is decorated to your liking, you can share with friends, by posting it on Facebook or emailing it. You can save it and edit later, or save it and built a stable of Christmas trees, depending on your mood that day. It's a lot cheaper than going out to the Christmas tree lot and getting a new Douglas fir!!
This app is compatible with all versions of the iPhone, and requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Connect with Chris on Twitter @Commodity_Bull