This collection offers mostly innocuous tales of holiday festivities with a smattering of laughs, quite a few yawns, and very little genuine wisdom. In her introduction, London journalist Segrave asserts that Christmas tends to ``highlight human failure,'' and each of these 18 stories deals with this theme. The stories--some new and others that have appeared previously; by newcomers and writers as well-known as William S. Burroughs--explore our capacity for forgiveness in light of the expectations the holiday tends to invoke. Debut author Omar Sattaur looks at a peace offering to a jilted lover through the eyes of two young boys more concerned with whether a battery-operated Porsche and toy air rifle will appear under the tree than the with the loneliness of their Aunty Pearly, abandoned years ago by her husband (``A Neck Like Yours''). Mandla Langa's protagonist recalls the tragic death of a friend, when they were young boys working the docks in South Africa, and stops blaming himself (``Zizi''). But sometimes, forgiveness does not come easily. In A.L. Kennedy's sad tale of regret and spite, a father tries not to let his gentle daughters see how angry he is with the mother who failed them (``The Snowbird''). William Trevor provides a somber portrait of an Irish wife living in England who tries to reconcile her Irish husband with a longtime British family friend who won't show up for Christmas dinner because her hard-headed husband inadvertently suggested they approve of the bombings of innocent bystanders and now refuses to amend his statement (``Another Christmas''). And other times, forgiveness never comes. Mary Broke Freeman's wife finally leaves her cheating husband (``A Date with Santa''), and Andrew O'Hagan's rejected student exposes his teacher as a junkie (``Glass Cheques''). Christmas may represent hope and rebirth for many, but these slices of life, for the most part, fail to live up to such potentially powerful themes. More fun than fruitcake but less exciting than a Sear's wish book.