Top Tips: Brandy, burns and bust-ups: your Christmas conundrums answered

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How to light your Christmas pudding without burning your fingers

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Delia Smith recommends heating the brandy in a metal ladle before igniting it with a match and then pouring the burning liquid over the pudding. Science backs this up: heating the brandy brings the alcohol well above its flash point (26C for 40 per cent by volume), the lowest temperature it vaporises to form an ignitable mixture in air, and closer to its fire point, the temperature at which it will continue to burn after it is ignited.



What to do when you haven't bought someone a present

By Victoria Summerley

A profuse apology or hand-made card might do the job, but this Christmas may well see the birth of a new phrase: doing an Amazon. For the first time, we all have a cast-iron excuse for not having a present to hand that unexpected guest.



How to keep up the pretence of Santa to your kids

By Cahal Milmo

"But Dad, how does Father Christmas get down so many chimneys in one night?" In response to such scepticism, conventional science is not much help. In order to deliver 1kg of presents to each of the world's two billion children, Santa would need to travel at 1,300 miles per second in a sleigh carrying 400,000 tonnes of gifts pulled by 360,000 reindeer, allowing him 0.001 of a second per delivery. But non-believers can usually be silenced by wellington boot-created "sleigh skid marks" and "reindeer droppings" fashioned from wet compost.



How to manage the inevitable family argument

By Virginia Ironside

Remember: even during the war the English and Germans played football together on Christmas Day. Make it a day when you refuse to rise to any bait, and bear in mind that everyone is just as stressed and tense as you are.



How to sober up that annoying uncle who's drunk all the brandy

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

There are no reverse ferrets when it comes to alcohol – once it is in your system only time will get it out. Drinking black coffee is the classic remedy – but handle with care: you may turn a safe, sleepy drunk into an alert, dangerous one. Prop your guest up in a corner of the sofa and let him sleep it off. And hide the brandy next year.



What to watch on Christmas Day

By Gerard Gilbert

Start with The Meerkats (9.55am, BBC2), then watch TOTP Christmas (2pm BBC1). The Queen follows (3pm BBC1 & ITV1, 5pm BBC2). Stick with BBC1 after tea-time for Doctor Who (6pm, with Michael Gambon), Strictly Come Dancing (7pm, with Vince Cable), EastEnders (8pm, farewell Stacey), The Royle Family (9pm) and Come Fly with Me (10pm) – the new one from the Little Britain boys. Round off with Miranda's old-fashioned comedy (10.45pm BBC2).

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