Deck your halls with Christmas music
It's Christmas. The season of eating, drinking, making merry, and - most importantly - giving. So here's what we're giving you this Christmas - the gift of music. The gift of Cliff Richard, Mr Blobby, and Rage Against the Machine. We're giving you the gift of as much Christmas music as it's possible for you and your family to consume.
The music industry is slowly changing. This year, so many great streaming music services have arrived, and the ones that existed before this year have got even better. So without further ado, here's a brief guide to getting all the Christmas music you could ever want streaming on your computer.
The current darling of the music streaming scene, Spotify has a great big stack of Christmas music - from the sublime to the atrocious. You could access it by searching for "Christmas" or "Xmas", or even "cold", "snow", "holidays" or other keywords, but a much better solution is to use playlists.
There's plenty of Spotify playlist-sharing sites available on the Web, but our favourites are Share My Playlists and SpotyShare. Do a search for "Christmas" on either of those, and you'll turn up all sorts of user-created Christmas music lists. If you're feeling less kind to your family, you could also check out The Best Of The Worst Of Spotify - a blog featuring Christmas music on steel drums, wurlitzers and chipmunks. Oh dear.
Oh, and we'd be remiss not to mention the almighty 24-hour Pocket-lint's Christmas Albums playlist, which runs the gamut from alternative to poptastic, via metal, hip-hop and classical. Hook some speakers up to your laptop, whack our playlist on, hit shuffle and never touch a button again.
Perhaps you're not a convert to Spotify. Maybe the adverts annoy you and you don't want to pay for premium. In that case, the next best option - if you're willing to sacrifice the ability to pick exactly which song is playing - is Last.fm.
The best place to start here is going to be the site's Christmas Tag Radio. Nearly 10,000 people have contributed tracks to the station, which has everything from Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to Sufjan Stevens and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Just hit "Play" and it'll keep going and going almost forever - though you don't get to pick which song is coming next, just the ability to skip songs you don't like.
From there, you can dig down a little further. If you prefer things a little more traditional then you could try the Christmas Carols tag, and if you like things a little more experimental, then there's an Alternative Christmas tag option. There's even a reggae christmas tag, if you're feeling irie. A bit of exploration, and Last.fm's tags should be able to deliver whatever flavour of Christmas music that you desire.
Also offering free streaming Christmas music is We7. Unlike Spotify, you can use We7 without having to install any software - it just plays in your browser. Also, unlike Last.fm, you get to pick exactly what songs you want to hear, and you can pause tracks half-way through. It has more ads, though, unless you plump for premium.
We7's offering a "Merry Christmas from we7!" playlist with the Ronettes, George Michael, Andy Williams and Aled Jones. However, if that doesn't take your fancy then the site has custom playlist functionality so it's pretty easy to build your own collection of festive hits, should you so desire.
Deezer, Napster and Sky Songs
French streaming site Deezer seems to be ignoring Christmas entirely. There's absolutely no mention of the holiday season on the site's homepage. Does France not celebrate Christmas or something? Luckily, you can do a search for Christmas and you'll uncover a few tracks - though beware that it includes a dodgy cover of "Driving Home for Christmas" and Crazy Frog's covers of "I Like To Move It" and "Get Ready For This" in the list.
Former file-sharing behemoth Napster takes the festive season a little more seriously. If you're a subscriber and you log in then you'll be offered a Christmas Calender playlist and a Total Christmas list - which wins points for starting off with Mariah Carey's epic "All I Want For Christmas Is You". A little further exploration under "Napster Playlists" will yield a few more options too, including the promising-sounding Christmas Office Party.
Sky Songs has a Christmas offering too - with a collection of albums from Michael Bublé, Sting, Sarah Brightman and other grandparent-friendly, inoffensive singers. There's also classical, jazz, and more family-oriented offerings further down the page below an oddly-placed list of recent pop tracks. Sky has also got a bunch of artists - among them Jamie Cullum, Pixie Lott, David Guetta and Andrea Bocelli - to pick their Christmas favourites in the playlist section.
Internet Radio and TV options
Lastly, if none of those suit you, or you don't have access to some of those sites, then there's always good ol' internet radio - which many people can get on their DAB radio. Radio-directory.com has a Christmas page that lists a massive diversity of different options, from "Inspirational Christian Christmas Classics", through "The Worlds Most Dangerous Christmas Music" to "Country Christmas" and "New Age Holiday Music".
Or, if you have Sky, Virgin or other expanded TV services then there's a good chance that there'll be some Christmas offerings somewhere down in the radio listings at the end. If nothing else, just tune to one of the music channels - there'll inevitably be a pile of Christmas tracks on repeat.
Have we missed your favourite source for holiday music on the Web? Educate us in the comments. Oh, and Merry Christmas!