Berlin Stories: Out of gift ideas for your resident family fascist? Look no further

With its pretty Christmas markets, chic boutiques and ice rink on Unter den Linden, I believe Berlin beats New York hands down when it comes to Christmas shopping. And if you're lusting after a politically incorrect present, Berlin's got that wrapped, too.

The official neo-Nazi Calendar of the National Resistance, published by Deutscher Stimme, which is aligned with the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), was tentatively launched last year, but is back this year with a vengeance.

The 240-page pocket 2005 edition, themed "1945: We're Not Celebrating", costs €12.80 (£8.80) and is packed with homoerotic imagery, a long list of right-wing internet addresses and tips on how to behave at neo-Nazi demos. You can look up the birthdays of prominent Nazis, including Adolf Hitler, and anniversaries of German military victories, as well as articles on "Tolkien's ethnic message" and a potted history of the German Reich.

If you think this sounds like one big bad festive joke, you'd do well to consider that 2004 saw neo-Nazi support in Germany rise once again, with extreme right-wing parties in the states around Berlin doing particularly well. In recent regional elections in the eastern state of Saxony, the NPD - a party the German government tried and failed to ban last year - even gained enough of the popular vote to make it into the state parliament. The neo-Nazi calendar might be finding its way into more Christmas stockings this year than you'd think.

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Berlin's usually über-grumpy Ossis (former East German citizens) are happy this Christmas. But only, I suspect, because they've got one over on the Wessis.

Before reunification, even the little red and green men at pedestrian crossings were different on either side of the Berlin Wall. East Berliners grew fond of their stocky, behatted figures, known as Ampelmännchen, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop them being replaced by the slimmer (and much duller) West Berlin version.

In a flash of "Ostalgic" brilliance, some clever folks put the Ampelmännchen on keyrings, mugs and T-shirts, not only turning the East Berlin traffic-light men into one of the reunified German capital's most recognisable images, but also into its best-selling souvenirs.

Indeed, Ampelmännchen are now such an institution that the Berlin authorities have agreed that the East did crossing lights better. They say they "shine brighter and have a better symbolic effect". In future, all West Berlin pedestrian crossings in need of repair or replacement will get the cute ex-GDR version .

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For someone who has yet to buy her Christmas cards, I fear I may have missed the Christmas post to the UK. But if I never want the recipient to receive a letter I may have written in haste, I've got until March next year to post them, thanks to a new arts project here.

"Nächste Leerung: Nie" (Next Collection: Never) by a French-born artist, Sylvie Boisseau, is a special letterbox which has just been erected in the Gropiusstadt district, "in memory of all the letters never sent". For the next three months, Berliners can post into it all those passionate and angry dispatches they wrote in haste but never had the bottle to send, safe in the knowledge they'll never actually reach their final destination.

The concrete box, which is in the form (though not the colour) of Germany's Deutsche Post mail service boxes, will then be handed over - with its contents - to Berlin's national Postal and Telecommunications Museum for exhibition. "Unopened and untouched", so the museum claims. I'm not convinced, though. I have a feeling all those letters I never sent - mostly, I shamefully admit, to people who dumped me - are far, far safer in the secret box stashed under my bed.

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