The holidays are upon us, and whether you’re decking the halls with fresh holly and ivy, donning an ugly Christmas sweater, 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. Most are free, though some have a nominal fee.
Stressing over holiday gift-giving? Check out our best tech gifts for any budget and the best smartphone stocking stuffers.
Christmas Cookie — Help Santa
The wee ones can help Santa get ready for Christmas. How? By swapping different kinds of cookies until Christmas day. This match-three game is played by tapping, swiping, and combining cookie flavors, swapping tiles to match three or more cookies at a time. You can clear the space with match combos as more cookies, candies, and desserts descend. There are a variety of power-up combinations, too, including opening gift boxes, melting annoying snowmen, and breaking out Christmas stockings. Match cookies to create Christmas ornaments and use arrow tiles to clear large groups of cookies all at once to keep the game going. This all makes Santa so happy that he celebrates by dancing and singing.
NORAD Tracks Santa
NORAD Tracks Santa 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 both 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 his reindeer crew. Newer versions feature games, music, and content with chat and references to holiday traditions around the world.
Christmas Countdown 2022
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 holiday 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 Adeste Fideles, and Twelve Days of Christmas music. The Advent Calendar is ready to go beginning on December 1. A new original premium song, Christmas Magic, has been added for 2022, as has a new premium count box with glowing colorful lights. A language selector has been added to the settings screen, and the auto dark mode now aligns with your system settings.
There are quite a few apps that riff on the “naughty or nice” game format, but here’s the most popular one for iOS. It’s targeted at 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 and produces a verdict, telling your child via colorful special effects that they’re either “naughty” or “nice.” 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
This collection of charming Christmas background wallpapers 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. This app offers a sackful of enchanting holiday-related background images for free.
Yasa Pets Christmas
Combining cats and Christmas = cuteness overload. 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. We want to say it’s only for the kids, but we know you can’t resist the little felines either (it will be our secret).
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 everyone you know 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 to message your friends.
A Charlie Brown Christmas ($5)
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. Pass through levels to decorate rooms, discover new areas, and win prizes. Make matches of four and five items to create bombs and power-ups. The promise of rewards of cookies and soda will keep you busy for a long time after Christmas. For 2022, you too can help Reindeer Rudy restore Santa’s house in time for Christmas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($4)
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 $4 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. The Android version of the app is similar to the iOS version, but it includes less content and costs just $1.
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 comic 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. The 2022 update adds dance sharing to TikTok. The app now recognizes faces and positions them automatically and also offers different free dances every day, with an augmented reality (AR) option.
A Message From Santa!
Now hear this! The kids are gonna love Message From Santa. They can call Santa, get video messages, record a wish list, and hear about 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 is celebrating its 15th anniversary, and it’s magical as always. Input some information about your child, and a personalized video from Santa will play. The main idea is for kids to find out from Santa if they’re on the naughty or nice list, but it also includes some free games and activities. There are some in-app purchases that include a reaction recorder and story time. A family option features videos where Santa speaks to a group. Premium members get new videos, phone call scenes, an elf dancing game, face-to-face Santa chats, multi-device videos, and a year-round birthday video. The new 2022 version offers four new free-trial Santa videos, 18 new premium videos and calls, and a live call from Santa during your video. A multi-device premium video includes a Christmas Eve video direct from Santa’s sleigh. Santa’s Activity Kit features printable activities, crafts, and word games.
The Christmas List ($3)
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. Just tap a 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 gifts. For $3, it’s a great way to keep track of what to buy without going over budget. While this app isn’t available for Android, a great Android alternative is Christmas Gift List.