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Why you should wrap your Christmas tree in clingfilm, how to avoid fairy light fury and other ways to make next November's you love the you of today

In the coming days you'll have the chance to give yourself a great big Christmas present next year – neat, untangled, unbroken ornaments! It might not sound like much, but you can make early December you really love early January you with these quick, simple storage tips. Tree Ornaments Don’t just throw everything into plastic bags. It sounds obvious, but there’s a huge temptation just to find the quickest solution to the task by filling up a Bag for Life with your baubles. The problems happen when you have a combination of materials used for your ornaments, as most of us do. Little Tommy’s pasta angel will not last long against the bargain plastic santas from the Pound Shop once...

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What were the first things people decorated Christmas trees with?

The first Christmas tree ornaments were apples, pomegranates and paper roses, and by the sixteenth century candles were being used. But the earliest ornaments we might recognise were the glass baubles first produced in Laushca in Germany. This small town is the birthplace of Christmas decorating as we know it. Starting in 1820, glassblowers in Laushca would compete to see who could produce the biggest glass balls at Christmas. They were known as kugels, and the glassblowers filled them with mercury silvering to produce that shiny shimmer that we associate with Christmas ornaments to this day. They were initially stuck in the ground by the glass spikes that were a remnant of the glass-blowing process, or hung from the ceiling...

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Nine songs to decorate your Christmas tree to

The songs you play at Christmas quickly become a tradition, and certain tunes become strongly evocative of certain Christmases, or certain periods of your life. It's a tradition it's easy to add to, too, as kids grow up and add their own favourites. Here are some starters to help you punctuate another lovely tradition, decorating the tree together.   Putting up the tree Heigh-Ho by The Dwarf Chorus Childhood and memory, silliness and fun, that's the Christmas spirit. Howk that tree in from the garden or down from the loft to the strains of seven animated dwarves extolling the virtues of hard work.   Fetching the ornaments Once In Royal David's City, The Choir of King's College, Cambridge Treat it...

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How to tell when someone is lying about loving your present

'Thanks, it’s lovely!’ Can any three words be so roundly abused at Christmas? What else is a person meant to say when they receive a bottle of talcum powder (seriously, who actually uses talcum powder any more - not counting babies?), an ‘ironic’ Barbie sticker album or a book about a hobby you once mentioned when you were 15? We’re sure you’re not that hopeless, but you still might worry about whether you’ve hit the nail on the head or whether your gift is going straight on the school fair raffle pile. So what are the tell-tale signs that someone is faking it? How do you tell when someone hates your present? Happy shocked, or angry shocked - who can...

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The odd reasons we really use holly at Christmas time

It's in the songs, it's on the mantelpiece, it's in the wreaths on the door and it's all over the cards - so why is holly so strongly associated with Christmas? That depends who you ask. You can pick your symbolism, from pagan to Roman to Victorian. The pagans would bring plants inside at the coldest time of the year as a fertility symbol. They thought the thorns of holly would repel bad luck, witchery and lightning strikes. Holly was often combined with ivy – as in the song – because they were thought to balance each other. Pagans believed that the robust form of holly meant that it was male, and combining it with the soft curving tendrils of...

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