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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

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.

Ios Books of the Year 2012: Stocking fillers

The definition of luxury: tea with Alan Bennett

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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