“The Holidays are right around the corner!” Depending on where you live, what your background is, and what comprises your belief system, this can mean many things. Here in the U.S., where I live, we are about to embark on the “Holiday Season”. This time of year includes many holidays not only for folks in the U.S., but for people throughout the world. Thanksgiving (U.S. only – sorry, Jim), Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day are generally included in what we collectively call the “Holiday Season”. Throw in a couple “eve” holidays (New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve) and our calendars get pretty full this time of year.
What gets you in a festive spirit? What activities do you do that tune your mood to celebration and enjoyment of the Holidays? I’m sure your answers vary depending on which Holidays you choose to celebrate and which ones you don’t. If, like me, you are strapped to a desk this time of year working and laboring at your job, trying to tie up a thousand loose ends to close out the year for your company, you may not feel very festive. I have to spend hours in front of the computer, scheduling employee vacations, closing projects, and making plans for the coming year, all while planning my vacation and knowing I won’t be at work that much during the holidays. Sometimes the only glimpse of holiday cheer I get is a quick glimpse at my holiday-themed wallpaper or a festive MP3 playing in the background while I work!
Let’s take a look at some safe sites where you can find free holiday downloads like free wallpaper and other gadgets for your computer to help you get in the festive holiday spirit. All of the sites herein have passed my browser’s Web of Trust and AVG security checks. I have downloaded content from all the sites and afterward scanned my computer for any unwanted intrusion and my inbox for slews of unsolicited email and they have all come through clean. Downloading items to dress up your computer can be dangerous and result in a lot of spyware, adware and craplets, so be sure to check out the sites’ reputations before you download!
Let’s get started!
Free Holiday Downloads – Wallpapers and Screen Savers
Blue Mountain, an AGInteractive affiliate, hosts a website that specializes in eCards, but they have sections devoted to wallpaper and screen savers. AGInteractive is the online subsidiary of American Greetings, so both the Blue Mountain and the American Greeting sites are very similar, sharing many of the same wallpapers. The Blue Mountain site showcases specific artists whose work ranges from beautiful to cartoon-like, yet still cool. They state upfront that their free downloads are 100% Spyware and Adware free and as far as I can tell, this is 100% true. Within their free download section their categories include Seasonal and Holidays. The website is kept up to date with the American holiday calendar, with a click on “Seasonal” resulting in Thanksgiving and fall themed wallpapers and screen savers.
Once you select a wallpaper from a thumbnail, you are given choices of screen resolution sizes to download. If you are not sure of your current screen resolution, right-click on your desktop and look for a “properties” or “Graphics Properties” and click the “Display Settings” button or tab. This will vary slightly depending on your operating system.
Simply select your screen size and click “download now”.
For these two sites, you need to go through a free and simple registration process. If you are not interested in receiving offers or updates from these companies, simply deselect the check box. They also offer screen savers and interactive desktop calendars which come with “wallpaper packs”.
Holiday Music Downloads
Free holiday music downloads abound on the internet. Regardless of your musical taste or favorite genre, you are sure to find something you like. However, my taste in music may not be the same as your taste. I did however, want to point out that every day in December, through the 25th, Amazon will be offering one free MP3 download per day here.
If you are interested in Christmas music, FeelsLikeChristmas offers several “free and legal” MP3 selections in four categories: Contemporary Instrumental, Contemporary Vocal, Traditional Instrument and Traditional Vocal. Each category has several selections of public domain music available from both well known and lesser known artists. Artists are encouraged to submit their recordings of public domain holiday songs for exposure, not payment. I was able to download a Jars of Clay and a Bob Bennett performance simply and quickly with no-registration process.
If you want to simply listen without downloading, you may want to slip over to Last.fm, and do a tag search for “Holiday”, “Christmas” and so on. They have a decent selection of music under these tags, although their free download selection is limited. If you don’t have an account, the sign up is quick, easy and free. If you want more information on Last.fm, check out these MakeUseOf articles.
What are your favorite holiday songs and who are your favorite seasonal performers? You might also want to check out Tina’s recent post on the Top 8 Sites To Listen To Free Christmas Music Online
Themes, Cursors, and Sounds
Themes generally consist of wallpaper, screen saver, specialized icons and cursors, and various sounds based on the theme. You can also download these items individually and mash them together for your own personalized theme. I tend to do that a lot, as I may like the wallpaper but not the cursor or screen saver. I found a neat package of Christmas and New Year related cursors aptly named “Kriss Kringle’s Christmas Cursors” at PC World. This holiday hodownload provides fifteen cursors, three of which are animated.
The download is a zip file that you need to unzip and then create a folder with a memorable name. Move the cursor files to this folder. Next go to your control panel, find the mouse properties selection and click on the Pointers tab.
Just to the lower right of the “Customize” section, click on browse and look for your folder. Select a cursor and it shows up in the “Normal Select”. Now you’ve changed that boring arrow to something festive! If you’ve played around with cursors before, this is very simple, and you can select various cursors for various ‘select’ types (working in background, busy, etc.). Don’t worry, you can always come back here and click the “Use Default” button to return to normal on January 2, 2010!
The neat thing about this time of year is that everyone seems to enjoy different approaches to the various holidays. Some people like traditional, some like contemporary, some like humorous, and some enjoy a child centered approach. Depending on how you choose to celebrate, you can certainly find plenty of items out there to dress up your digital life with holiday cheer. The sites I’ve previewed may not be exactly your taste and approach to the holidays this year, but spend some time searching for what you like, and share what you find in the comments section.
Oh, by the way, Happy Holidays!