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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The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003