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24 December

In the headlines

Millions of Britons may have to get a fourth Covid jab early next year, following new research showing that protection from the booster shot against omicron starts to wane after just 10 weeks. In better news, an official analysis has shown that people infected with the new variant are 70% less likely to need hospital treatment. The Queen’s Christmas message tomorrow will be much more personal than usual, says The Mirror. It is the monarch’s first festive season without Prince Philip for 73 years. Also airing tomorrow is a “lost” episode of Morecambe and Wise that Eric Morecambe’s son found in an attic. First aired in 1970, the 45-minute show was wiped from the BBC’s archive. The comic duo’s sketches aren’t very “Christmassy”, says The Daily Telegraph, but this year of all years it’s “the perfect nostalgia-tinged pick-me-up”. 



Dickens made us all love Christmas turkey 

Charles Dickens was having a wobble when he published A Christmas Carol on 19 December, 1843, says Melvyn Bragg in Radio 4’s In Our Time. Martin Chuzzlewit had flopped in serial form, so he put out his Christmas novella as “a little whole”. It was a hit, selling 6,000 copies in its first week. But the lavishness of the first edition, with its gold-embossed cover text and pricy illustrations, meant Dickens initially made only £137 – a worry for the 31-year-old father of four (and soon to be five).



Quirks of history

The Christmas truce of 1914, when British and German soldiers sang carols and played football in no man’s land, wasn’t a one-off. Despite commanders trying to put a stop to it, fraternisation occurred many times during World War One, German historian Thomas Weber tells The Times. One British private recalled a Christmas kickabout in 1915 near the French town of Laventie: “We weren’t afraid. Nobody would shoot at us when we were all mixed up.”


We Jews have contributed a great deal to Christmas, says Simon Kelner in the I newspaper. Winter Wonderland, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), White Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were all written by Jews. We have written and produced some of the great seasonal movie offerings. And if you turn “Ho-ho-ho” upside down, what do you get? “Oy-oy-oy.”

Gone viral

Rod Stewart has taken TikTok by storm with his account, @sirrodstewart. A video of the diminutive singer dancing to his 1978 No 1 Da Ya Think I’m Sexy with his wife, Penny Lancaster, has racked up more than 20 million views – and a similar clip with friends has been watched 4.7 million times. One user quipped: “That tree must be at least 5 feet tall.” Stewart, 76, has joined the video-sharing platform at the right time – this year TikTok surpassed Google to become the most popular website in the world.

Staying young

The average Briton will need to go on a six-hour jog or a 12-hour walk to burn off their 3,475-calorie Christmas lunch.

On the money

Noddy Holder earns up to £1m a year from his Christmas classic Merry Xmas Everybody, released in 1973. The former lead singer of Slade, now 75, wrote the song in one sitting after a night at the pub. It went to No 1 for six weeks and has been in the charts every year since 2006. “A day doesn’t go by without someone shouting ‘It’s Chrisssstmass!’ at me at the top of their voice,” Holder says.

Snapshot answer

It might look tropical, but this Father Christmas lookalike is actually surfing in an artificial wave pool in the Swiss Alps. The 0.6C waters of the Alaïa Bay lagoon are suitably chilly for a North Pole resident.


Quoted 24-12

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”

Shirley Temple