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How many sleeps to Christmas? There's an app for that

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the better Christmas-themed apps available for the iPad.

Do you know how many sleeps to Christmas? If not, there are literally dozens of iPad and iPhone apps that will tell you.

After listening to holiday music at the mall, are you craving yet one more rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? There’s an app (or two, or 20) for that as well. Want to play a Christmas-themed game? Colour a reindeer? Give Santa a haircut? You can find apps that’ll do all those as well.

I’ve spent hours sifting through the thousands of Christmas-themed apps available for Apple’s iPad and iPhone, and my brain is still numb. Type “Christmas” into the App Store and (as of Dec. 4) 1708 iPad apps and 4098 iPhone apps pop up (far fewer apps for Kwanzaa and Hanukka, by the way).

Many are gimmicks (the free “Naughty or Nice”, for example, supposedly determines whether you’ve been good or bad by scanning your fingerprints. Yeah, right.) Many are hasty, poorly done copycats of casual games given a thin holiday veneer. And others entice you in with a low (or free!) price and then require frequent in-app purchases to unlock new levels, songs or prizes. Caveat emptor indeed!

But there are some worthwhile Christmas apps available. Here are my picks:

Advent Calendars: There are many virtual Advent calendars available for the iPad, some of them free, some of them costing a little. Most are not worth downloading because they don’t really take advantage of the iPad’s multimedia capabilities (you’re better off with an old-fashioned advent calendar -- at least with some of those you get chocolates!). The 99-cent NFB Advent Calendar, which I mentioned in my previous column, is the best of the digital bunch, as every day until Christmas you get access to yet another of the NFB’s classic videos. All are kid-friendly, and (so far) all have been enchanting (including such favourites as “The Cat Came Back” and “The Girl Who Hated Books”).

Books: Lots of Christmas-themed books available on the iPad, including Nativity stories and Christmas legends. My favourites are the PopOut! The Night Before Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas, both at $4.99. The former features lots of pull tabs, spin wheels and spring-mounted objects -- all virtual of course, while the latter includes the original dialogue and music from the classic television show and is narrated by Peter Robbins, the original voice for Charlie Brown. You can play Schroeder’s piano, help decorate the tree, play a snowball-throwing game and more. Magical.


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