Christmas Details Competition: Who is beneath the hats in these well-known paintings?

Jenny Gilbert presents our seasonal head-scratching blockbuster...

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

Moore's short fiction has been published in Best British Short Stories anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra. This story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'

Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking… it's Christmas week in history, compiled by Ian Irvine
Controversial artwork: Robert Cenedella painted a crucified Santa

Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Tim Willis reports on the urban myth that refuses to die

The best festive tableware: Elegant additions to make Christmas Day all the more special

Clockwise from top left: Bouquet napkin rings (set of 4), £17.99, zara.com

Snow joke: a selection of jumpers made by ‘British Christmas Jumpers’

Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Christmas jumpers used to be unwanted gifts from an embarrassing relative. Not any more. Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind the British Christmas Jumpers brand

The Hoff, hooked! Backstage with David Hasselhoff and the panto brigade

Booing and hissing ex-soap stars and Eighties musicians has become an integral, if confusing, part of the Christmas tradition in the UK. As a kid, I remember pulling at my mum's ski-pants to ask who Sinitta was and why everyone was so excited to see her perform next to Cannon and Ball (it was always Cannon and Ball).

How is the New Year celebrated in your culture?

In Japan, New Year's Eve itself is called oh-misoka, and is a day to spend quietly at home for most people. It is not a day for fireworks at all in Japan (fireworks are reserved for summertime). You reflect on the old year, watch some year-ending entertainment programmes on TV such as Kohaku Uta Gassen (a long-running singing contest show), and perhaps go to the local temple at midnight, while hearing the 108 rings of the bell to ring away the evils of the old year. People looking for a party on New Year's Eve are often disappointed.

There is nothing like a dame: 'Puss in Boots' at The Hackney Empire

Has the Christmas pantomime had its day?

Oh no it hasn't! Despite cross-dressing dames getting a drubbing this week, pantomime is going strong, with rap, rock'n'roll and rudeness all playing their part

A festive-season survival guide: How to deal with Christmas office-party snogs, family dramas and dodgy cooking

Q. What's the best method to extract yourself from a bore at a drinks party? I am 50 and still haven't found a way.

Yule rules: Your guide to having a middle-class Noël

The authors of ‘The Art of Being Middle Class’ present their essential guide to surviving yuletide, from what gifts really mean to which guilty pleasures are socially acceptable (...and which most certainly aren’t)

Our pick of the Christmas theatre 2012

From pantomimes to family fun, discerning theatre to slapstick silliness, we've got the pick of the shows this festive season - even for the bah humbugs among you

You scumbag, you maggot: Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' contender for Christmas number one

Plus the ten best Christmas songs in pictures

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