Hobson's choice

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The Independent Culture
Ranking, according to Dave Snathe of Selfridges, among problems facing Christmas grottoes, of the fact that "kids don't actually like going to see Father Christmas - it's their parents who drag them along": 1

Number of presents on the longest list sent to Father Christmas, compiled by a 9-year-old boy from Kent: 1,453

Average amount spent on presents for boys per annum in Britain: pounds 153

Average amount spent on presents for girls per annum in Britain: pounds 141

Value of UK toy industry last year, not including video and computer products: pounds 1.66bn

Average earned per month by the mainly female workers in Chinese toy factories, well over China's statutory minimum wage: pounds 40

Year in which, on Christmas Day, Professor Otto Wichterle created the first successful contact lens in his laboratory in Czechoslovakia: 1961

Number of years after his death at the age of 43 before Wolfgang Dircks was found in his Hamburg flat with the television still on, the Christmas tree lights still flashing, and a Christmas TV listings magazine open on his lap: 5

Rank, in sales of nativity figures in Barcelona, of caganer, or Catalan crapper, a squatting man or woman usually positioned just behind the manger: 1

Centuries in which the Gospel of Pseudo Matthew - which, through its emphasis on animals (at one point it tells of Jesus meeting a pride of lions, which worships him), cemented the tradition of the ox and ass witnessing Christ's birth in the manger in Bethlehem, there being no mention of this in the canonical Gospels - was compiled: Ninth and 10th

Percentage of people who admit to making fools of themselves at their office parties by, amongst other things, drinking too much, flirting and saying things that they later regret: 60

Number of Zoroastrians - believers in the first monotheistic religion, the faith to which the Three Kings belonged - in the world today: 140,000

Year in which Cuba abolished the Christmas holiday as part of an effort to produce a record, 10-million-tonne sugar harvest - only restoring it last year in preparation for the Pope's visit: 1969

Amount that Merril Lynch, the American investment bank, would have spent on its office party at the Natural History Museum for its 600 staff, if it had not been cancelled as an economy measure: pounds 20,000

Percentage by which the units used by the Danish government in allocating the approved daily unit allowance of alcohol, are larger than the units used by the British government: 50

Hour on Christmas morning at which Derek and Lavinia Plummer took photos of their grandson, Liam, opening his presents in their living room, only to find, when the photos were developed, that a woman's face could clearly be seen on their switched off television: 5am

SOURCES: Spectator, Guardian, Independent, UN Human Development Programme, London Magazine, BATR, Daily Mail, Time Out, Irish Times Compiled by Will Hobson