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Does Santa really care if you’ve been naughty or nice? We suspect he, like the rest of us, is swayed by the power of words. So here are some tips to get what you really want this Christmas – without holding Rudolph to ransom.

It might be a while since you penned a letter to Santa. But across the globe, kids will be frantically scribbling and emailing over the next few days, all eager to bag that special present.

But what makes a persuasive letter to Santa? And what can we learn from the strategies of children at Christmas time? As with any good letter, there are certain rules that need to be followed:

1) Grab your reader’s attention

Santa’s clearly a busy man. So how are you going to make sure he reads your letter? It’s really important to have a strong opening line – one that intrigues and engages your reader and gets them on your side. This is something 17 year-old Johanna from Finland managed with pure aplomb:

Dear Joulu Pukki [Finnish equivalent of Santa], Did you know that people here used to think that you were a goat?

2) Give practical advice

Most letters request a response from the reader – and letters to Santa are no different. But it’s always important to clearly state what you want the reader to do. Take this example from Ashley, 7, who lives in New York:

Santa, you know how it is nowadays, my parents are divorced, so please put me on your special delivery list to come 2 nights, Christmas Eve at Mom's and Christmas night at Dad's. Thank you!

3) A strong call to action

No letter is complete without a strong ending. And there’s definitely something interesting in the example set by one 13 year-old schoolgirl from Bedford this year – who has mastered the art of a ‘killer’ call to action.

According to the papers, she sent a list of demands to Santa which threatened to kill him if she didn’t get at least two of her requested presents – which included a smartphone and ‘the real-life Justin Bieber’.

She left Santa in no doubt about the consequences of non-compliance and ended her letter with one of the all-time greatest festive finishers:

Remember… two of these, or you die.

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Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be the same without that familiar ‘pop’ followed by a ridiculous paper crown and a daft joke. But what is it that makes the perfect cracker joke? And can you tell which retailer the crackers came from – just by their sense of humour?

We’ve collected together a medley of jokes from the far corners of the high street. Choosing from the big name brands below, can you match the joke to the shop?

You’ll find the answers at the end.

The retailers:

Lidl, Debenhams, Morrisons, Boots, Asda, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Harrods, Waitrose, and Fortnum & Mason.

The jokes:

1. What does the carpet salesman give to his wife for Valentine's Day?

Rugs and kisses

2. What sort of bull doesn't have horns?

A bullfrog

3. What did the dog get for Christmas?

A mobile bone

4. Why are bananas never lonely?

Because they go around in bunches

5. What goes oh, oh, oh?

Santa walking backwards

6. What do you get out of a poorly piano?

A sick note

7. What did Adam yell on the day before Christmas?

It's Christmas Eve!

8. What do you get if you cross a stereo with a refrigerator?

Cool music

9. What does the word minimum mean?

A very small mother

10. What did the English teacher call Santa’s helpers?

Subordinate clauses

Were you right? Take a look below:

1) Boots 2) Asda 3) Marks & Spencer 4) Sainsbury’s 5) Morrisons 6) Waitrose 7) Harrods 8) Lidl and Debenhams 9) Tesco 10) Fortnum & Mason

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When the presents have been unwrapped, the turkey has been scoffed and there’s hours of ‘quality time’ with the family stretching out before you – what do you do? Why not make like the Victorians and try a wordy parlour game?

CRAMBO

A guessing game, similar to ‘Twenty Questions’ in which a player thinks of a word and starts by telling the others a word that rhymes with it. For example, if the word is dog, “I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with log”. The others try and guess the word by asking questions, but the first player’s answer must rhyme with his/her previous word. So, for example:

"Is it related to a pig?"

"No, it's not a hog."

“Is it a type of weather?”

“No, it’s not fog.”

This continues until the right word is guessed. Got it? No, neither have we.

GRANDMOTHER’S TRUNK

Slightly simpler than Crambo… The first player begins by saying, "My Grandmother keeps a (word beginning with 'a') in her trunk." The next player continues: "My Grandmother keeps a (word beginning with ‘a’) and a (word beginning with 'b') in her trunk," and so on through the alphabet. It’s a test of memory – and a great way to fill time before the Great Escape rerun…

FICTIONARY

Also known as Dictionary or the Dictionary Game, this involves players guessing the definition of obscure words – taken at random from the dictionary by each player.

Every person writes down the real definition and then makes up two or three additional meanings. The other players have to guess which definition is correct. Points are awarded for every person who is fooled. Or you could just play Balderdash.

FORFEITS

Many Victorian games involved the loser paying a forfeit. Here are a few word-related examples:

Forfeits for gentlemen

Say half-a-dozen flattering things to a lady without using the letter L.

Play the Dumb Orator – while another person recites a speech, the gentleman must furiously act out the emotions that are being recited.

Forfeits for ladies

Repeat a proverb backwards.

Stand in the middle of the room, and spell ‘opportunity’. If, after the lady has spelt the word out loud, a gentleman can reach her before she regains her seat, he may take the ‘opportunity’ to kiss her under the mistletoe.