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Smart Home

Alexa Christmas tips: 10 fun things to try

Make the holidays a little more festive with Amazon's smart-home assistant.

light-rhapsody

These may look like standard holiday LEDs, but the Light Rhapsody strand pairs with your Amazon Echo so you can control it with voice commands.

Light Rhapsody

You're likely leaning Amazon this time of year to buy holiday gifts. But did you know you can employ Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, to help with the holidays too?

In the weeks leading up to Dec. 25, you can use Alexa to set a festive mood at home, and keep party guests entertained. 

Let's take a look at the Christmas tricks Alexa can perform:

Play Christmas music

OK, this is fairly obvious. Assuming you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, Alexa can play all kinds of Christmas tunes -- everything from "That's Christmas to Me" by Pentatonix to "The 50 Greatest Songs of Christmas" by various artists. 

And if you have an Amazon Music Unlimited or Spotify subscription, there's a substantially larger pool of holiday tunes to play.

Now playing: Watch this: We ordered an Amazon Christmas tree!
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No subscription? No problem: Enable the Christmas Radio skill and then ask Alexa to play it. Or you could just ask her to sing you a Christmas carol. The result may surprise you.

Play Christmas music curated by Santa

Another option for holiday tunes: Tell Santa what you want to hear. You can do that thanks to a new iHeartRadio skill called iHeart Santa.

Once enabled, you ask Alexa to "talk to Santa Claus," then answer a handful of yes-or-no questions to help "Santa" determine what kind of Christmas music to play for you.

Learn more about the iHeart Santa skill in this tutorial.

Listen to 'The Night Before Christmas' and other stories

Alexa can recite the entire poem, though one could argue that -- unlike her singing -- her reading lacks a certain warmth. For a livelier version, ask her to play the poem as sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Read more: 22 tips for your new Amazon Echo

Control your Christmas lights

There are numerous ways to put Alexa to work as the traffic cop for your holiday lights. The most basic: Plug any strand of lights into an Alexa-compatible smart plug. That way you can say things like, "Alexa, turn the Christmas tree lights on."

You can also invest in a strand of lights that are, themselves, smart. The Light Rhapsody (currently $55), for example, can change colors, perform various effects and more -- and they're Alexa-compatible, so you don't need a special outlet.

Send Christmas cards

If you never quite got around to printing and mailing Christmas cards, Alexa can help you send digital ones instead. Check out our how-to guide on sending holiday cards with Alexa.

Suggest daily acts of kindness

'Tis the season of giving, right? The Christmas Kindness skill -- the highest-rated holiday skill for Alexa, interestingly -- will suggest a random act of kindness you can perform every day. For example: Let that stressed-out mom jump ahead of you in line at the grocery store. (Say... that one could work all year round!)

Find gifts

Thanks to Alexa's ability to search Amazon's massive catalog of products, you can use it to find gifts and even purchase them with your voice. Here we give you the tips you need to shop for gifts with Alexa.

Play Christmas sounds

Want a festive holiday soundtrack that's not music? Enable the Christmas Sounds skill, then ask Alexa to play it. You'll be treated to a running stream of hooting owls, clopping hooves, Christmas carolers and more. It's like there's a whole party going on inside your Echo! But take note: When you ask Alexa to turn off the sounds, it doesn't happen immediately. That's all I'll say.

Track Santa

By enabling the Norad Tracks Santa skill (a parent must approve this within the Alexa app), you can ask "Where's Santa?" to get an updated location -- and, if you want, some interesting facts from Norad's "Santa Files."

Explore Christmas trivia

Alexa knows a fair bit about the world's biggest holiday. Among the questions she can answer:

  • Is Santa Claus real?
  • Where does Santa Claus live?
  • How old is Santa Claus?
  • What can you tell me about Santa's reindeer?
  • What do you know about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
  • Who's your favorite reindeer?
  • What is the true meaning of Christmas? (Whoa, Alexa can get deep.)

Have you found any other fun holiday things to do with Alexa? Share them in the comments!

Editors' note: This post was originally published on Dec. 5, 2017, and has since been updated with additional information.

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide: The place to find the best tech gifts for 2018.