Arts and Entertainment

Old luvvies act with gay abandon  in a classic festive sitcom

Blues: When Santa Claus wants some lovin'

Never mind mistletoe and wine. It's sex and sadness that made the blues singers' seasonal songs so potent

Album: James Brown, The Complete James Brown Christmas (Polydor)

Nobody works the festive angles the way James Brown could: not many acts have managed to crank out three complete Christmas albums, as are compiled here along with a smattering of bonus singles – including the not entirely festive-spirited "Believers Shall Enjoy (Non Believers Shall Suffer)", on which the Number One Soul Brother doesn't seem to have quite grasped the notion of goodwill to all men.

Album: Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas II You (Mercury)

It's 16 years since Mariah Carey's first Christmas album, and there's nothing here to suggest she's developed significantly since then.

Album: The Puppini Sisters, Christmas with the Puppini Sisters (Verve)

Christmas with the Puppini Sisters sounds pretty much like any other time with them: a full-on cheese-fest of wannabe Andrews Sisters vocal arrangements of material which is, due to the thematic restrictions, less liberally sprinkled with surprises than usual.

Bad weather puts Christmas gifts delivery in doubt

Millions of Christmas gifts are stacking up in warehouses and might not be delivered in time for the big day, a haulage expert said today.

Christmas gifts: You shouldn't have...

Gift-buying is a minefield – and austerity makes matters worse. So why do we still insist on getting into debt for often unwanted presents? We should learn our limits, says Harriet Walker

Outside Edge: Gym rat should be lockered up

If you're planning to keep fit during the forthcoming festivities, you don't need any more reasons to avoid going to the gym. Steven Lawani will be piling on the pounds rather than stealing them after being given a five-year ban from all leisure centres in the UK.

Dear Santa... New book reveals strange requests to Father Christmas

Some of the hundreds of thousands of letters sent to Father Christmas each year have been published in a new book which reveals that, far from being selfish demands, many Christmas wishes are generous and heart-wrenching and, frequently, funny.

No Pain, No Gain: Armour is fighting back in a tough retail environment

Are we due for yet another Santa Claus rally? In most years in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year the stock market enjoys an exuberant run. I believe it will do so once again, despite the hesitancy created by the multitude of problems confronting the eurozone.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (15)

Starring: Eugene Byrne

You Better Not Cry: True Stories for Christmas, By Augusten Burroughs

The first half of this memoir concerns a very young Augusten Burroughs, stuck at home with his pill-dependent mother and alcoholic lecturer father, convinced that Santa and Jesus are one and the same (they both appear "in continuous rotation on television at the same time each year"), much to the horror of his Southern, God-fearing grandparents.

Trail Of The Unexpected: Swedish Lapland

Sweden's Arctic north provides a very different Yuletide experience to its Finnish rival, says Tam Leach

Elton John / Leon Russell, The Union (Mercury)

Singing from the same hymn sheet: Sir Elt and Brother Leon's Gospel glory

Feeling nostalgic? Take a trip down memory lane with your home décor

When Osborne and Little launched its Zagazoo collection of wallpaper and fabrics this summer, a warm, fuzzy feeling came over me. Designed by Quentin Blake, the collection features all manner of his trademark cheeky characters: mischievous-looking cockatoos perched on jungle branches, wiry children flying about on skateboards, and perky farmyard animals that take me straight back to childhood and my first forays into the rich and magical world of Roald Dahl’s books.

The Magic Numbers, The Pigalle Club, London

The Magic Numbers are back. Yes, that four-piece with lots of hair and impressive beards (half of them, anyway), who back in 2005 made people smile with the jangle-guitar and brother-sister harmonies of their eponymous debut.

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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee