Free things for Christmas

I keep forgetting to use one of my own photos as a holiday card. So this isn't a holiday freebie, but it could have been.

I love Christmas. I also love free stuff. So putting the two things together always makes my day. And because sharing makes everything better, I want to share my a few of my favorite holiday freebies with you.

1) Free holiday music. Last year, I was in desperate need of holiday music. I had only one holiday CD, and I disliked that album intensely. It had exactly one good carol on it. The rest were second-rate, mid-century carols by mediocre artists. If we lived in a just world, those songs would have been lost in a record company’s basement, but we don’t. Somebody dredged the carols up and stuck them all together on a disc which I got – I kid you not – from a cereal box. Chex, I think. Anyhow, my feelings about the album are beside the point, because I lost it while moving. While I didn’t miss the album at all, I totally missed having Christmas carols. I know I could have turned on the radio and tuned in to any one of the stations that plays holiday music for the month of December – hell, WEBE 108’s signal is so strong that we can actually hear Bing Crosby singing White Christmas on appliances that aren’t radios.  Still, I was so sick of all those songs. I’ve been hearing them since I was born. The last new carol on those stations is probably Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” and that came out when I was in high school.  I wanted something new. Or at least something good. My savior was Amazon’s MP3 store, which gives away 25 holiday tunes during the month of December – one for each day. And for the most part, the music is really good. Yeah, Dan Fogelberg and Carly Simon occasionally sneak into the line-up, and there are at least three versions of “Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel.” (To be fair, there is a cool metal version this year, by the lead singer of Judas Priest.) But generally, the music is by contemporary artists and there are even new carols. My favorite this year is Winter Hymnal by the Fleet Foxes.

My New Yorker holiday bow prototype.

2.) Home-made paper bows. I got this idea from my brother, who made his own paper gift bow for my mom’s birthday present last week. I think that’s an awesome idea because I never have enough gift bows. Well, I do, but because I scavenge the bows off last year’s unwrapped presents and re-use them, all of my paper bows are smushed beyond recognition. So I’m making bows, using the below video and our pile of old New Yorkers. At left is my first attempt. It’s a one-in-the-morning bow, so it’s not winning any prizes. But it’s still really cool to be able to make them.

3.) Desktop wallpaper. This isn’t actually holiday stuff. But I thought I’d include it because stars are a part of the Christmas story and also a part of the fabric of almost every other religion on the planet. And also because this is just cool. The Hubble Space Telescope posts its best images on its website. Several of those images can be downloaded as wallpaper for your computer. I like the cloud towers in the Carina Nebula best. It’s an awesome way to see the stars, even if you’re staring at your screen.

Happy holidays.

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