The era of "mix tapes" may be in the past, but I know that my family still enjoys the holiday CDs I make for them each year. The music is timeless, and the variety that can be included in a custom CD is usually more personalized (and less irritating) than a CD bought in a store. Older folks appreciate the antique charm of the compact disc, the younger folks just upload the songs to their iPods, and everyone seems excited to add to their holiday music collection. I personalize the case insert with our family name and some pretty clip art, and I show up at our holiday party with a stack of them.
Making the CDs is inexpensive and easy. First, choose a dozen or so crowd-pleasing songs and purchase from an Internet music resource such as iTunes.* Pick up a stack of blank CDs and some sets of Avery CD labels and inserts. Make a playlist on your computer, and burn away while you drink eggnog.
Now comes the fun part: designing the label and insert. I used Microsoft Word, Avery templates, and some clip art from microsoft.com (shown above)—nothing extra-professional or fancy—and got great results. The back of the CD insert can be printed with the playlist; in place of clip art, you can use your own art, your kids' art, or family photos to decorate the CD and case.
You may want to center your songs around a theme, such as Instrumental Only (The Boston Pops, Canadian Brass), Lounge-y Cocktail Party (Dean Martin's "Baby it's Cold Outside," Kay Starr's "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man with the Bag"), Modern Classics (Mariah's "All I Want for Christmas is You," Wham's "Last Christmas," Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime"). Knock a bunch of people off your list at once, and have fun getting in the spirit while you hunt down the ideal music for your family and friends.
*Please note: Each purchased song may have restrictions on how many times it can be burned to CD; if you have a big family, you may have to pay that $1 twice or more. NEVER download or gift music illegally!