Arts and Entertainment

Old luvvies act with gay abandon  in a classic festive sitcom

How I learnt to love being a stepmother

After her 20-year marriage ended in divorce, Terri Wiltshire had come to terms with not having children of her own. But then she fell in love with a father of three boys – and her life changed forever

Into The Little Hill/Down By The Greenwood Side, ROH Linbury Theatre, London

Unpredictable stuff, electricity. While Rigoletto was going full-blast in Covent Garden’s main auditorium, events downstairs in the Linbury studio theatre were suddenly brought to a halt by a power-cut. George Benjamin had just begun to conduct the long-awaited London premiere of his chamber opera Into the Little Hill – with two outstanding soloists and the London Sinfonietta in brilliant form – when everything was plunged into blackness. Time passed, people waited, the power stayed off, and at 10.30pm Benjamin and his performers defiantly delivered a concert performance in the foyer.

Jobless father kills children

Man shoots wife and young family in apparent suicide pact after both are sacked from hospital jobs

Santa gunman 'planned to escape'

A man who dressed as Santa Claus before driving to the home of his former parents-in-law and killing nine people who were seeing in Christmas together planned to escape to Canada, it emerged yesterday.

Editor-At-Large: Haggling in the souk is our new way to shop

Tony Blair might have got in touch with a higher being by embracing Catholicism, but even he has succumbed to that hard drug few can resist: bargain-hunting. Our former prime minister spends his time these days jetting around the world trying to kick-start peace in the Middle East, but he rearranged his schedule to be first through the door at the Armani sale in swanky Knightsbridge – they even opened an hour early so Tony could spend thousands on clothing discounted up to 50 per cent, unmolested by fellow shoppers.

Santa gunman kills nine and torches house

Eight-year-old girl survives shot to the face

Gunman dressed as Santa kills six at party

By Guy Adams in Los Angeles

Terence Blacker: It's enough to make you believe in God

It is a difficult week for those of us of little faith. At every turn, there are songs in the air about certain poor shepherds, the angelic host proclaiming, the mother mild, the wondrous childhood all deep and crisp and even, and so on. It would be unfair to compare this assault of carols to the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay by the repeated playing of Queen's "We Are the Champions", but the effect is still discomfiting.

Police investigating mass Santa brawl

Detectives were today investigating after a group of men dressed as Father Christmas got into a fight.

Christmas: A Dickens of a time

Cheer and churchgoing, feasting and dancing, drinking and kissing, bonhomie and benevolence. If these are the things we think of when we think of Christmas, then we've got the Victorian era's greatest novelist to thank, argues John Walsh

Jonathan Trigell: Get that tree out of my post office

There is a Christmas tree in my local post office. You might think that the most unusual part of that, in these days of closures, is that I have a local post office. But I live in France, where religious symbols are strictly banned from state institutions and so I can't really see how they can get away with it. If you don't think that a Christmas tree is really a religious symbol, ask yourself how comfortable you would feel decorating one in Iran?

Kate Mosse: The great stocking swindle

Memories shift, crack, slide over time. Some become more colourful, distinctive, significant. Others retain the power to sting, to undermine, to wound, even decades after. We ascribe adult motivations to childish impulses, paint ourselves in a more flattering light. We read novels, about childhood, of coming age, and are seduced into thinking of ourselves as more thoughtful, more original than ever we were.

Neil Gaiman: Hanukkah with bells on

I do not recall lobbying for anything, as a boy, as hard as I lobbied, with my sisters, for a Christmas tree.

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