Monday, February 25, 2019

The 7 Best Christmas Websites (For When It's Totally Not December!)

Admission Time: This past holiday season wasn't exactly the greatest. I tried not to let the fact that I was going to be out of work at the end of December ruin my festivities but it mostly felt like I was going through the motions of the holidays and not actually enjoying the nuances of friends, family, and Santa.

Which stinks.

I love the holidays. That span from Halloween through New Years is magnificent and my favorite time of year. We go from fake cobwebs and vampire bats to reindeer without batting an eye. And I really look forward to celebrating every year. I'm one of those weirdos who sits here in July writing about how the first signs of the season are right around the corner. Even as I sit here writing this post the calendar says we are about as far away from Christmas as you can get, yet realistically I know we are only about five months away from Hobby Lobby looking like Clark Griswold's living room.

Thankfully, I'm in a much better place now than I was during the holidays. I'll be starting a new job soon and I could not be more thankful. But.... blah, I wish it was December 15th and I could squeeze in a bunch of holiday activities. Luckily for us, the internet is a vast place that does not adhere to the same set of rules which bind traditional retail establishments. If you want Christmas then by golly you can find Christmas.

The following article is mostly for me. But maybe it'll be for some of you too. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, stress. You owe it to yourself to find whatever makes you happy and then engage in it. Without having to justify your happiness to anyone else.

... unless it's murder. Then probably don't pursue that.

For the rest of us, be like Uncle Lewis from Christmas Vacation. Wear that toupee and wear it proudly. Even though everyone else knows it's fake that's not what's important.

Here are The 7 Best Christmas Websites (For When It's Totally Not December!) but you still need a little holiday cheer!

You'll be able to find a number of themed countdown clocks online but The Christmas Countdown is my personal favorite. It's been online without fail for a number of years and the code automatically resets itself as soon as Christmas is over. Always giving you an accurate look at how long you've got until Santa comes back to town.

Plus you can bookmark the website and make it your homepage, it's quick to visit and you'll be surprised how calming that snow effect is when it's way-to-hot outside in the middle of July.

I've got a bigger collection of holiday music on my iTunes than I'd care to admit but sometimes it's just better when the music flows in unexpected places. I find myself listing to a lot of tracks that I wouldn't normally select for myself and that's Pandora's biggest achievement. They've got all the classics you'd expect but always do a good job of tossing in some curve-balls that you wouldn't expect.

And while I don't quite think that any two playlists on Pandora are ever exactly the same, I've always felt that Christmas music is best enjoyed when someone else is listing to it with you. That's the appeal of Delilah and her holiday station, knowing that it's a shared experience with others also currently stuck in traffic doing last minute Christmas shopping.

I like the idea that at least a handful of the 62 million people who have previously listened to "Christmas Radio" are currently sneaking a listen at the end of February. That's pretty darn cool!

If they ever make an Internet Hall of Fame then Roger Barr from I-Mockery is a first-ballot entry. He's one of the pioneers of Internet Blogging and one of the first to start writing nostalgia based content before it was the cool thing to do. Needless to say without Roger's contributions a lot of us would not be here doing what we do today. 

I-Mockery is perhaps most famous for his amazing two months of Halloween coverage but he's always done an outstanding job covering the Christmas season too. You'll be able to find a small archive of some of his holiday articles using the link above but it's also worth taking the time to dig through the full blog archives for all of his seasonal content.

It's through websites like I-Mockery that I honestly learned it's alright to hold onto some bits and pieces of your childhood. Just because your an adult doesn't mean that you cannot find the time to enjoy Charlie Brown decorating a shoddy tree branch or indulge in whatever stupid seasonal candy is currently available. 

It should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that Amazon sells Christmas decorations year round. You are always free to simply type Christmas into the search bar and see what comes up but I've always felt that ends up being a bit of a disappointment. You'll get a hodgepodge of results which are a million pages in length, which somehow seems to show you the least interesting product first.

I much prefer the "hidden" Seasonal Decor category that brings you to the main hub of Christmas options. You'll be able to float through much more defined categories which mimics how you'd see a seasonal display at Target or Walmart.  Occasionally this page tends to look a little broken or wonky, like nutcracker image is for some reason currently a garbage bin. But maybe that adds to the charm of shopping for junk you've got no real reason to be shopping for in the middle of summer.

Amazon isn't the only major retailer to keep its seasonal catalog online year-round, Walmart also offers a nice little hub for all your holiday needs. Just don't expect any miraculous out of season discounts, it's all full priced product. But it's well organized and thus pleasing to the eye to look it.

Honestly, I'm always a little surprised at how much Walmart has to offer out of season. You can find virtually anything you'd like granted your willing to pay the same prices you would at the start of the season. But let's be honest, if you are here for the same reasons that I am this is less about purchasing and more about just browsing. Taking in the visual sights and sounds of the season.

We are going to skirt some copyright laws with this entry but you can find a pretty decent selection of Christmas cartoons available on YouTube. From Garfield to Mickey. Classics like "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" and even the full (and legally available!) He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special! If you don't mind a little hunting and pecking, you can find just about any classic Christmas cartoon on YouTube and all for free!

I remember last July is when I first learned of the "Miser Brothers Christmas" special and sure enough I was able to find a copy on YouTube and give it a watch. That was a lot of fun, it was super hot outside and I had my AC on low but I still went and made a cup of hot chocolate and enjoyed experiencing a new holiday classic cartoon for the first time!

I've saved the best for last, folks. And I feel like not much of an introduction is even necessary for this entry. If you are reading this blog then your no doubt familiar with Matt's historic work at Dinosaur Dracula and X-Entertainment respectively. Along with Rog from I-Mockery these guys are single-handedly responsible for all of this. I discovered X-E all the way back when I was in middle school.... and well, I graduated High School in 2005 so that should give you some kind of indication as to how long both of them have been doing this.

In terms of capturing the magic of the holiday season, nobody comes close to Matt's writing style. We grew up in different time periods, in different parts of the country, and come from different family backgrounds... yet reading his work makes you feel like you've shared many of the same experiences together.

And the sheer volume of content available is a bit astonishing, even if all of his early work on X-Entertainment has been lost to the sands of time. You've got plenty to dive into on Dinosaur Dracula as well as full podcasts over on The Purple Stuff.

I know this was an absurd sort of post, one that won't be getting Twitter shares or become internet famous and that's alright. I think we all need a little more absurdity in our lives. And if you gain nothing else from this, I hope you are able to take away what I was trying to convey in the opening few paragraphs: happiness comes in small places and it's alright to find your own even if it seems silly to someone else.

And for anyone wonder, yes there are only 302 days left until Christmas.

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