Arts and Entertainment

Old luvvies act with gay abandon  in a classic festive sitcom

Waxwings are regular winter visitors to Britain and Ireland

Here from Lapland for Christmas, the birds that sound like sleigh bells

Birdwatchers in for a treat as waxwings arrive in numbers not seen for more than 40 years

A cuddly victory: Furbies push iPad down the Dear Santa list

A talking cuddly electronic pet is the toy most wanted by children this Christmas, judging by the letters posted to Santa Claus.

Bah, humbug! Snowman creator hates Christmas

For three decades it has been a heart-melting festive favourite. But now Raymond Briggs, creator of The Snowman, has revealed his frustration at how his story was hijacked by Christmas sentimentalists – saying it was meant to be about death.

Raymond Briggs: The Snowman is not really about Christmas, it's about death

The beloved children's book, and subsequent animation, has been hijacked by festive sentimentality according to its author

Ios Books of the Year 2012: Stocking fillers

The definition of luxury: tea with Alan Bennett

Asda, Tesco and Debenhams are just a few of the retailers using blokes with beards in TV ads

Hairy Christmas, everybody! Move over Santa – blokes with beards are all over our TVs this year

To a certain white-haired gent, Christmas has long been about one thing, and one thing only: face fuzz, and plenty of it. And now it seems Britain's retailers are catching up.

Zip wire ride a 'scream' for Lorraine Kelly

Lorraine Kelly "screamed like a girl" as she rode a zip wire to promote a Christmas charity campaign to thank troops serving around the world.

Opening day at the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, eastern Germany

Germany's Yuletide markets: The fight before Christmas

They are big business - but this year stallholders have been accused of putting cash before seasonal cheer by opening too early

A Cuban crocodile called 'Missile'

This week's wackiest web stories: Crocodile Drunkdee, Taliban D'oh and the £1m tattoo

Could a Tsunami happen in land-locked Switzerland? Plus honour among thieves and Fantasy Football just got real

John Coates

John Coates: Film producer best known for 'The Snowman' and 'Yellow Submarine'

While he liked to remain faithful to the source material, he also gave his directors creative freedom

Father Christmas arrives early as Harrods opens Christmas department

Father Christmas arrived a full 151 days early today as Harrods opened its festive department to cater for summer visitors from abroad.

Mr Balls indicated he and wife Yvette Cooper - the shadow home secretary - would not involve their son and two daughters in publicity photographs

Ed Balls attacks politicians over use of family photos

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has expressed distaste at politicians doing photoshoots with their children - the day after Ed Miliband was pictured at home with his family.

Rebecca Armstrong: I would rather have Roses than mistletoe any day

There's a poster in the window of a card shop near iTowers that has a sketch of a pair of socks on it and the words "Just so you know, I have enough of these. Merry Christmas."

BOING!, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, London

BOING!, the new Christmas show from Travelling Light and Bristol Old Vic, has a brilliant connection with its child audience. From the beginning, five-year-olds were absorbed and giggly. When the performers suggested they help catch a thrown teddy bear, whole rows stood up as one, determined to be ready.

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The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil