'Tis the season to be jolly, which often translates to lights and garlands and tinsel and glass balls and inflatable leg lamps. But when most of us spend more time with our eyes trained on browser windows than stocking-bedecked mantelpieces, shouldn't we share a little love with our RSS readers? Here are nine websites to follow through the holidays that are sure to inspire a little seasonal merriment in your offline life, too (or maybe just instill in you a healthy suspicion of men in ill-fitting red and white suits).
The Guardian's Literary advent calendar
We're a bit late on this, but you can spend the next week or so catching up on the month's goodies so far—an advent quiz, a delightful story in pictures, an interview with astronaut photographers—and enjoy what's to come.
Let's Be Glad! and Christmas Music
Bing Crosby and The Chipmunks certainly have their warm-fuzzy place in the holiday music pantheon, but too much of that stuff can leave your teeth aching like you just OD'd on candy canes. To shake things up, play any number of the unexpected tunes from this tumblelog (but maybe, ah, wait til the little ones have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads before you bust out Sonic Youth's "Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope" or The Vandals' "My First Christmas as a Woman"). For more mainstream but still nicely curated fare, follow Christmas Music.
Half Off Depot
With (hopefully) the worst of the recent financial crisis behind us, this holiday season doesn't seem quite as bleak as last year's. Still, every little bit helps, and your friends and loved ones certainly won't begrudge you for reaping the benefits of this site, which sells gift-cards for restaurants, shops, spas, gym memberships and other services at—you got it—half the original price.
Lottie + Doof
Okay, okay—this delightful food blog's 12 Days of Cookies celebration will likely be over before you're reading this, but you can probably expect more delicious food, dessert and drink recipes to post throughout the coming weeks. (Even if not—still! Twelve days of cookies! TWELVE DAYS! OF COOKIES!)
The mall Santa my parents would take my sister and I to visit every year growing up was so realistically jolly as to prolong my belief in him probably a few years longer than should be reasonable. The kids on this website probably didn't hold on to that childhood delusion too long after these photos were taken, however. Bad fake beards, awkward hand placement and highly discomfited toddlers abound.
If you're into handmade goods and vintage wares, this one's worth following any time of year. But if you're looking to give the most thoughtful, creative and heart-warming gifts possible this year, definitely keep tabs on the how-to tutorials, gift-guides and other roundups posted this month by Etsy's ever-superb staff.
TV Guide's Movies on TV listings
Have you ever had one of those Decembers where you somehow miss every single airing of White Christmas and It's A Wonderful Life? Don't you hate that feeling of catching just the last five minutes of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Whether you set a DVR or plop down with family and friends to watch "live," make sure you don't miss a minute of your favorite holiday movies this year. (Looks like Santa's Slay isn't playing on any channel this season—shocker!—so you'll just have to rent that one.)
Countdown to New Year 2010
If you're sick of all the food, family and festivities, or if you're just ready for 2009 to finally be over, you can literally count down the seconds until the New Year with help from TimeAndDate.com (though you'll have to wait until the final ten to get any help from Dick Clark and/or Ryan Seacrest).