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

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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Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
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Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

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Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

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