Arts and Entertainment

Old luvvies act with gay abandon  in a classic festive sitcom

Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Liar liar

Dear Virginia, I am in despair because I have found that my six-year-old son has been lying to me. I've only caught him out twice – once when he said he hadn't broken something when he had, and once when he said he'd finished his supper and it turned out he'd put it in the bin when I wasn't looking. I really worry. Should I punish him next time he does it? Yours sincerely, Claudia

Paperback: I Am, Therefore I Think, ed. Alexander George

Sceptre £7.99

Michael Brown: Why our party leaders need political satnavs

With the political world now shut down at least until the party leaders' new year messages are issued political journalists are reduced, this morning, to wondering what our political masters got in their stockings.

A crack pipe at Christmas, by Sebastian Horsley

For weeks we've been exhorting you to spend, spend, spend, but now that the presents have (with any luck) been bought and the preparations are complete, it's time to ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas. We asked our favourite writers to rant, reflect or reminisce on a festive theme. As Ronald Hutton explains, the last thing you should feel at this time of year is guilty, so sit down with a mince pie and enjoy

A Christmas visitor, by Matt Thorne

For weeks we've been exhorting you to spend, spend, spend, but now that the presents have (with any luck) been bought and the preparations are complete, it's time to ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas. We asked our favourite writers to rant, reflect or reminisce on a festive theme. As Ronald Hutton explains, the last thing you should feel at this time of year is guilty, so sit down with a mince pie and enjoy

The joy of darkness, by Michle Roberts

For weeks we've been exhorting you to spend, spend, spend, but now that the presents have (with any luck) been bought and the preparations are complete, it's time to ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas. We asked our favourite writers to rant, reflect or reminisce on a festive theme. As Ronald Hutton explains, the last thing you should feel at this time of year is guilty, so sit down with a mince pie and enjoy

'Tis the season to go mumping, by Ronald Hutton

For weeks we've been exhorting you to spend, spend, spend, but now that the presents have (with any luck) been bought and the preparations are complete, it's time to ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas. We asked our favourite writers to rant, reflect or reminisce on a festive theme. As Ronald Hutton explains, the last thing you should feel at this time of year is guilty, so sit down with a mince pie and enjoy

Out of America: Invasion of the inflatable Santas

The nation's front yards are all lit up for Christmas and the tackier the better

On Santa Claus's trail: one billion people will log on to track his progress

One billion people around the globe will log on to track Father Christmas's progress - and the people behind the website are America's top-secret radar defence experts

Let's visit Santa. Shall we go to Lapland or Kent?

Splash out on a trip to the Arctic Circle or try the version in the British countryside. Simone Kane offers a comparison

Sarah Sands: A time for giving the wrong impression

Reading between the lines of her greetings cards

My Secret Life: Father Christmas

Saint Nicholas of Myra is the main inspiration for the figure of Father Christmas, aka Santa Claus. He was a fourth-century bishop in Lycia, in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas was famous for presenting gifts to the poor, in particular providing the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. Today's Father Christmas is more likely to give presents of a Nintendo Wii or Bratz. That's progress for you.

Gardening: Rituals and victuals

Mutinous reindeer, angel factories and tussles over meal times Anna Pavord remembers the spirit of family Christmases past

You've been good all year, but ask for a holiday and your boss could still refuse to play Santa

Parents vs non-parents, Christians vs atheists: Michelle Chance sees how employers can reach a fair decision in deciding who gets time off

Call of the wild: Being green doesn't mean being a stick in the mud

Helena Pozniak goes in search of activities for nature-lovers where family fun is high on the agenda
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'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

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