Christmas crackers . . . and plenty of turkeys

I DIDN’T know it could take up to 15 years to grow a Christmas tree to six or seven feet, nor that seven out of 10 dogs receive a present from their owners; or that the average time we spend making frantic last-minute purchases is 33 minutes.

That’s one of the joys of the festive season: PR firms go into overdrive, pumping out Crimbo-related guff wrapped in colourful and metaphorical paper and topped with an imaginary bow in the hope the media will unwrap it and chirp “Oooh, just what we need to fill this page”. Well, in the case of “online accommodation specialist”, and a few others, it’s worked – just this once. (’Tis the season of goodwill, after all.)

Some of Venere’s pretty random barrage of “facts” are mildly interesting, such as the average budget for presents being 520 euros in America, 474 here and 206 in the sensible Netherlands. (Note to self re New Year’s Resolution: move to Amsterdam in 2011.) Traditional Christmas delights, meanwhile, include Lebkuchen in Germany (cookies made of honey), Buche de Noel in France (a G�noise – which I thought was Italian – or other sponge cake, baked in a large Swiss roll pan – which I thought was Swiss) and Pepparkakor in Sweden (heart-shaped and goat-shaped gingerbread biscuits).

From life coach and neuro-linguistic programmer Paul Brown comes advice on achieving a harmonious family Christmas, including “Focus on the positives” (write down five things you love about each of your guests before they arrive) and “It’s OK to feel sad” (use a notepad or recording device to jot down your feelings – acknowledging them can be seriously therapeutic). So there’s a worthwhile alternative activity to watching The Sound of Music . . .

My favourite is an offering from the breakdown cover firm GEM Motoring Assist, which presents an online road safety quiz for our delectation. (Hey, kids, switch off the Wii; I’ve got something much more thrilling!) Should the Queen’s Speech pall and you seek reinvigoration, go to to try your luck. Following last year’s unforgettable Road Sign Challenge – still the talk of the town from Chedburgh to Colchester – come (cue dramatic drum roll) 15 questions on dashboard warning light symbols. Woa, boys. That’s way too much excitement for me. Bet your office party is a riot . . .

You may also want to watch:

Merry Christmas, everyone.

PS: If anyone knows what a circle between two crescents of broken lines might signify, do let me know.

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