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12 best holiday apps to banish your inner Scrooge

They won't guarantee a visit from Santa, but they can help spark some holiday cheer

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It's the thick of the holiday season and if you haven't had an adrenaline shot of winter cheer and merry making you may be in the need of some help. That's where these 12 come in — a guaranteed rush of seasonal mirth packaged in a mobile app.

Most of them are free to download, but many require that you pay extra for different features. From photo editors that catch Santa on his big night, to roaring fires you can light on your mobile, these apps can certainly help you change your mood if you're in need of some holiday cheer.

Elfster Secret Santa

An Elf standing next to a Christmas tree and presents Create and manage Secret Santa lists through the Elfster appElfster

This is a Secret Santa generator, an app that matches groups of people together for a Secret Santa draw. You sign up for Elfster through Facebook or email, and the app handles everything, even telling people when the big exchange will be. People can even create wish lists which their Secret Santa can check.

Snapshot Santa - Photo Editor!

A one-eyed emoji in red with a mustache The Snapshot Santa app lets you drop an image of Santa into your photosSimon Crack

ADT recently launched a cool feature letting people superimpose an image of Santa into he security footage. The Snapshot Santa app works similarly, dropping a photo of Santa with his bag of toys, or even one where he's flying away in his sleigh into any photo you have, or a new one you want to take.

The app is actually free, and you can size Santa so he looks in proportion to the scene (and doesn't have that Godzilla quality, where he's just too big.) Want to skip Santa and go for the reindeer or some trees? Those are options too.


Christmas Spirit: Oz

A winter scene with a giant tree, and a snow scene Play the game while hanging out in Oz during the holidaysBig Fish Games

Mystery games are growing in popularity on smartphones, a way to take part in a narrative story while looking for clues. The Christmas Spirit: Trouble in Oz takes place in the magical land of Oz (yes that one), all tricked out for the holidays with snow storms, and snowmen and homes tricked out with red and green holly. There are in-app purchases to access most of the game. But we're pretty sure dropping into Oz during the Christmas holidays is bound to help you feel more merry and bright.


Forest

A smartphone with a tree on it Forest has holiday-themed trees currently growing on the appGearBrain

Forest is a favorite of ours, one of those apps we keep on our phone and turn to often throughout the year. The app is basically a timer — you set Forest for a certain amount of time, and if you don't pick up your phone during that period you're rewarded with a new tree in your forest.

During the holidays, trees get a holiday dressing, with snow and presents, and those increase as you keep your phone down for longer periods. It's not a holiday app, necessarily, but one of those that dresses itself up with holiday cheer during this time of year.


Fireplace Live HD

A fire burning into a fireplace Pick one of six different fireplace images in the Fireplace Live HD appVoros Innovation

Jonesing for a proper winter break, with a cosy scene and fireplace snapping and cracking? You can get that with the iOS Fireplace Live HD app. There are six different options, including a campfire outdoors, those classic fireplace set-ups and even one that's actually candles. You can also play sounds, and even set a sleep timer so the app goes off after a certain amount of time. Can't get out of town for the holidays? This app may at least help you feel like you're away.


ElfYourself

Faceless elves in green suits around a menu of options Add your face to a dance scene with elves Oddcast

No one is going to mistake ElfYourself for a deep fake, but this iOS and Android app does let you inject your photo into a melange of dancing elves — and yes you get a red and green Christmas hat on your head too. You can add your friends photos too, and even send greetings to people through iMessage. The app itself is free, and you can get two random dances for free every day as well, but the remainder of the 21 dances have a fee.


Hidden City

A holiday scene from the Hidden City app The HIdden City app makes you search for hidden Christmas objectsG5 Entertainment

Like mystery games, apps that let you find hidden objects are popular on mobile devices and this one has a very Christmas theme, replete with reindeer, glowing snowflakes and presents tucked under one of the most gorgeous trees in an ice palace. Parts of the iOS and Android Hidden City app are free, but you can pay to unlock more to the adventure.


Message from Santa!

A house in the snow, surrounded by decorations Have Santa call your child on the phone, or leave them a messageFirst Class Media B.V.

Look, the Santa thing for kids is very real. (Very real.) And while Shopping Mall Santa may work when your child is small, by the time children are in middle school they're completely oriented around their smartphone. So a phone call, or even a video message, is likely far more appealing.

That's the offer from this iOS and Android app which has Santa call you through the phone, leave a video message or even let your kid (or, hey, any kid) leave a message for the big man himself. You enter your child's name, age, sometimes their interests or even a photo, and the app takes care of the rest. Again, while the app is free, you'll pay extra for these missives from Santa.

Christmas Countdown 3D

Christmas Countdown app with a gold tree This app features a countdown until Christmas along with sparkling fireworksAQREADD

A free iOS app, the Christmas Countdown 3D, is short on the 'Ho Ho Ho's' but it makes up for that with a bright, sparkling tree and screens that countdown to the big day. There are golden fireworks that explode, you can spin the tree, plus there's music playing from "Jingle Bells," to "We wish you…"


PopOut! The Night Before Christmas

A picture book with Christmas decorations The $3.99 app features pop-up images around the classic taleLoudCrow

A $3.99 app, the PopOut! The Night Before Christmas app, is the famous poem told as a pop-up book, with moving images and words that highlight as the poem is read aloud. It has an old-fashioned look, lovely for children — or anyone who needs a little magic this time of year. The app also plays "O Christmas Tree" as it moves through the story.


Emoji Added — Christmas Emoji

A smiling emoji wearing a Santa hat This set of emoji is themed for ChristmasToyToy.com

Sure, you can add in some presents and a tree from the regular emoji collection on your phone, but this set of Christmas Emoji tags a Santa hat on some of your favorite smiling faces plus there's some holiday lights, gingerbread men, elves and other merry creatures that you can add too. The iOS app is free to download, but has some extra charges to access these images.


Video Call Santa

Santa holding up a phone to his ear You can record a dual video call with Santa and share it on iMessageDualverse

Video chat with Santa? Yes you can, and even pick out an American or British Santa. With this iOS app, Video Call Santa, Father Christmas says your child's name (although it has to be one of the more than 5,000 in the directory), and the video conversation is recorded and can then be pushed out to iMessage and also Facebook. Some of the perks are free to use, but you can pay for extra features to make them more personalized.

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