iPhone Apps for the Holidays

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Lo! The holidays approacheth! Twinkly colored lights festoon all things. The tintinnabulation of bells peal from street corners. And the bright promise of redemption through consumption beckons from every department store in the land.

This year, the Season of Giving has also coughed up an abundance of holiday-themed applications for the iPhone — scores of them. There are, for instance, various gift-buying apps that range from Better Christmas List ($2.99), which tracks your budget (and recently added a "much-requested passcode lock option") to Hanukah Holiday List ($1.99), which is made by the same dude and does exactly the same thing (but costs, inexplicably, a buck less). Or check out the free GPS Christmas List, which sends you an alert when you're near a store that sells something on your list. (See the Top 10 iPhone Apps of 2008.)

See, too, the many iPhone-ready talking Christmas books and games; Christmas trees and menorahs that really light; the eSnowGlobe for $1.99 (shake the phone and the snow swirls); half a dozen dreidel apps (shake to spin the dreidel); and a special "holiday version" of FirePlace ($0.99), which crackles cheerily and plays holiday tunes. But beware: the app "has been known to freeze on rare occasions," the developer warns, without irony.

And yet, something is rotten this holiday season at the Apple App Store. With all the hoop-de-doo about Christmas and Hanukah, another holiday that people normally observed in December is utterly unrepresented as of this writing: Festivus.

Where is the Festivus Pole app, commemorating the holiday's traditional, simple, unadorned aluminum pole? Or what about a Grievances List app, so that one can keep track of all the things people did during the past year that disappointed? It would certainly help observers recite them during the Airing of Grievances, which typically occurs after Festivus Dinner.

Allen Salkin, who wrote the canonical Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us, and became the unofficial spokesman for the anti-holiday — popularized by a 1997 episode of Seinfeld — does not see any conspiracy here. "Fundamentally Festivus is cheap," he pointed out. "And I say this as someone who wants you to buy the new and updated paperback version of the book for $9.99 this year."

The cheapness argument is hard to buy, though, since so many iPhone apps are free. Perhaps there just aren't any Festivus-observing developers yet. That would be odd, since Salkin noted that a Grievances application is available to Festivus observers on Facebook, where a number of member groups exist for celebrants. "I don't know how active it is, though," he said. He did have one suggestion for anyone who craved Festivus for their iPhone: You can buy the audio version of his book on the iTunes Music Store.

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