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The Christmas Pages

http://www.north-pole.co.uk/

Whisky galore at this refreshingly grown-up Christmas site from north of the Border, which includes a seasonal quiz with 24 bottles of Scotch as prizes, and and a lucky dip for pounds 250 cash. The advent calendar displays a daily "interesting Scottish fact", often about football, and there's a second-by-second Hogmanay countdown. Plus a Celebrity Santa competition - spot Sean Connery lurking under that false beard and win, for some reason, a bronze statue of Desperate Dan.

Absolutely Crackers Ltd

http://www.absolutely-crackers.com/

Inspired by a sugared almond wrapped in tissue paper, confectioner Tom Smith invented the first Christmas cracker in 1847. The company he started is now the world's leading manufacturer, and this fascinating history of the device includes the use of cracker "snaps" to simulate machine- gun fire for troop training in the Second World War, and the special set still made each year for the Royal Family - style and contents a closely guarded secret. In the US, though, a cracker is something you eat with chilli, or a term of racial abuse, so this site aims to recruit more Americans to the habit of mottoes, bad jokes and silly hats.

Comic Relief - The Christmas Site

http://www.comicrelief.org.uk/

A reusable online cracker, complete with serious explosion, is featured at this tour de force of festive Java and Shockwave. There's something here for almost everyone, but Scrooges need not apply: the red nose brigade want your credit card number for the best stuff, including a chance to win Mr Bean's baseball jacket, pogo sticks as used in a Supergrass video or a music award signed by Baby Spice. Other delights include a "redvent" calendar, a Great Elf Hunt, and some Xmas gift advice (eg an anti-snoring apparatus for Gran). The Comic Christmas Stocking (access pounds 20) includes games, downloadable decorations, and the HTML to customise your own site.

Swedish Christmas Chemistry

http://www.santesson.com/christ/chemhome. htm

Not as X-rated as it sounds, this bizarre site really is about chemicals - the molecular lowdown on traditional Swedish Xmas fare, described in a bracingly unseasonal mix of formulae and jargon. Lutfisk (Lutefish, a peculiar national treat) is "one of the most alkaline dishes ever known, giving rise to compounds such as ysinoalanine, OOC-CH(NH2)-(CH2)4 NH-CH2- CH(NH2)-COOH. In rats this results in a type of kidney damage called nephrocytomegaly". Based on a tongue-in-cheek greetings card from the Swedish National Defence Research Unit, other items cover the glucose and lignin content of spruce trees, the role of soot particles in candlelight, and - a concession to Christmas cheer - how to make your own glogg* (Swedish mulled wine).

Celebrity Trim-a-Tree

http://www.powerdesign.com/santa/index.html

Christmas tree decoration ideas from punk to postmodern are offered by this Philadelphia-based design outfit. A selection of minor American notorieties, including ghoul-rocker Marilyn Manson, pose here with their tree-trim of choice, which can be varied by site visitors. The resulting collages replace the usual tinsel and fairy lights with razor blades, teeth, chains, basketballs, angels and underwear.

New Year Resolution

http://www.newyearresolution.com/

Good intentions for 1998 can here be posted online, where one assumes they will hover reprovingly for the next 12 months. Will Diana from Corona, California, really never use her credit card again? Will Cindy from Santa Barbara stop going out with losers? Time will tell. Elsewhere, an interesting history of New Year customs is featured, and, for $19, a Resolution Kit, which comes complete with Contract, Laminated Affirmation Cards, 52 Calendar Reminder Stickers, and a "Meditation Candle to help create a relaxed mood while you visualize your success".

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