Newspaper headlines: Boxing Day sales, Downton Abbey and Christian persecution

There's a breathless air to coverage of the Boxing Day sales, with the press anticipating a frenetic day of bargain-hunting for many Britons.

The Daily Star says half the adult population is expected to splash out a total of £3.1bn, starting at 6am when Next stores open their doors. And one retail analyst says Boxing Day will be busier than ever: "Shoppers know December 27 is a Sunday, with reduced trading hours, so there is no point waiting for a day to shop."

The Daily Mirror is among the papers picking out some of the best deals in electricals, homewares, fashion, toys and gadgets, finding some reduced by 90%. The Sun forecasts a "shopping stampede", although many might prefer to stay at home and shop online if Christmas Day's figures were anything to go by.

Nine million people went shopping on the web on 25 December - twice the number who attended a mainstream church, says the paper. Some £728m was spent before the day was over, according to the Independent.

Image copyright AP

However, the Daily Mail strikes a more downbeat note, suggesting any Boxing Day "bonanza" for shops would merely "rescue them from a dismal Christmas". It says the 2007 financial crash triggered a "fundamental change" in shopping habits, with consumers flocking to discount stores.

According to the Daily Telegraph, mild weather, canny buyers used to holding back for discounts and excess stock left from disappointing Black Friday sales, have created a "perfect storm" for a bumper sales offering. And its fashion writer Lisa Armstrong offers 12 tips to triumphing in the sales.

First among them is the sage advice: "Don't base your decision to buy solely on the size of the reduction or how much you're 'saving'. You're spending. The important calculation is how much it's worth to you."

There's fashion advice in the Guardian, too, courtesy of Jess Cartner-Morley who says the "new breed of sales shoppers is applying next year's style rules to last year's collections". Garments that "dropped" six weeks ago are already on the discount rails, along with styles that featured in the 2016 spring/summer catwalk shows, she says.

"The key to resisting being baited by retailers desperate to offload the clothes with the most pressing sell-by dates is to approach the sales with a clear wishlist."

Those unsure of the latest style rules might have their minds on other things - such as a holiday. And the Daily Express says there are bargains to be had in that sector too. "Travel operators are launching a huge range of deals, with some cutting as much as £800 off trips to Europe and further afield."

Eye-catching headlines

  • "I laughed so hard at the panto I gave birth (oh, yes she did)" - Gok Wan's funny Fairy Godmother sent one expectant mother into labour, according to the Daily Mirror
  • "By special delivery, the card with no address" - a postman managed to deliver a Christmas card, posted in Germany and addressed only "England", says the Daily Mail, speculating that the card's address label must have fallen off once it arrived in the right town
  • "Doors for dummies" - a memo advises Department of Energy and Climate Change staff how best to open doors after 14 people were hurt in five years while using the department's entrances, says the Sun
  • "The weather outside is biteful" - UK homes are still "under siege" from autumn pests such as spiders, wasps and rats, reports the Daily Star

'Pure tinsel'

The finale of ITV period drama Downton Abbey merits a front-page review in the Daily Telegraph, with Allison Pearson describing how hitherto unlucky-in-love Lady Edith finally got her man.

A number of other storylines reached happy conclusions, prompting her to write: "Curmudgeons might argue that all the loose strands were tied up too neatly. What rot! The characters had suffered so much over the past five years: who could possibly grudge them a happy ending, especially one as beautifully orchestrated as this?"

Sarah Hughes agrees in the Independent that the feature-length special containing "a wedding, a pregnancy, a birth, the prospect of new horizons and a changing of the old guard" was a "shot of pure tinsel".

Image copyright ITV

The Mirror's Ian Hyland has other ideas, however, saying it captured the "true spirit of Christmas" only with "a long, fretful, and wholly unnecessary build-up followed by a main event that whizzed by in a boozy blur. And rather like my measly stack of presents this year it contained no real surprises and one or two total letdowns."

Ally Ross, in the Sun, agrees it was a "long, dreary" affair. He fears the producers' decision to finish the show for good - because they couldn't replace the Dowager Countess, played by Dame Maggie Smith - might be reversed if "the a**e really does fall out [of] ITV's share price".

The Daily Mail's Christopher Stevens viewed the drama's last act as a "battle to be crowned Christmas champions" with the BBC's Call the Midwife. "There was lots to enjoy on both shows," he writes. "But this year's winner has got to be Downton."

Taking stock of the Downton phenomenon, Richard Vine writes in the Guardian that "sometimes it's been an hour populated by 20-odd characters in search of a plot, and sometimes it's been filled with great performances and insight into class and position... It will be a while until ITV produces anything as ridiculous and successful as Downton Abbey."

Either way, the Express is sorry to see it go. Calling it "the end of a TV era", it adds: "Let's hope that somewhere a writer is dreaming up the next series that will exercise a similar hold on us on Sunday evenings."

'A light shining'

Some papers pick up on the Christmas messages from the Queen and religious leaders, with the Times finding the Archbishop of Canterbury's comparison of Islamic State extremists to King Herod both "apt and disturbing".

"Nor is the threat confined to the territories controlled by the pitiless armies of jihadism," it says. "Under threat from oppressive governments and terrorists in many countries, Christians are in fear of their lives." The paper argues it's integral to Britain's values to "stand with the victims of religious intolerance".

Image copyright Getty Images

However, Douglas Murray - of the foreign policy think tank, the Henry Jackson Society - complains that the church often fails to speak up for persecuted Christians, arguing: "The failure to defend Christians worldwide starts at home."

"The idea that we should prioritise those who are the most persecuted people from the region is thought to be 'discriminatory' against Muslims. The idea that it might be easier to accept and integrate those who share the historic faith of our culture is seen as 'discriminatory'."

The Independent cautions against turning on all Muslims in retaliation, pointing out: "Imagine if some mad cult of nominally Christian people declared war on the British state and its values in the name of an irrational reading of the Bible. We would not call them 'Christian terrorists' and ban all Christians from travel: such a notion is absurd."

The Telegraph notes that the Queen observed that if theology helps us to understand the threat it can also offer comfort - a "light shining... that the darkness cannot overcome". It adds: "For those who do not believe in God, the light could be a metaphor for human decency... The West must preserve its security and be hard-headed about the fight ahead. But it must not succumb to fear and lose the human decency that has helped it to win so many battles against so many foes."

Guardian: Hyde Park visitors covertly tracked via mobile phone data

Telegraph: Putin calendar of presidential poses on sale

Mail: Gorgeous in green: Kate dazzles in festive coat and hat as she leaves George and Charlotte at home to attend royals' traditional Christmas Day church service at Sandringham

Mirror: Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher explains why he's desperate for Arsenal to win the Premier League