Christmas is best for weight gain, uncomfortable family gatherings, warmed alcoholic beverages and most importantly, period dramas. So, the news that a fourth series of Downton Abbey, including a feature length Christmas special, has been confirmed is pretty much the best Christmas gift we could ask for. 

Filming for the 8 episode series is set to begin in February next year with it premièring in autumn 2013. Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, was said to have declined to sign up for a fourth series back in October, but his character is really rather crucial to the whole affair. Having killed off Sybil and the Turkish diplomat back in series 1, another untimely death would render it rather unbelievable. New reports from the Daily Mail say that negotiatiions are still ongoing for the contracts of all the characters.

Both Stevens and Michelle Dockery, his on air wife, have made a great impact in America and are both planning on taking their careers there. Stevens has in fact already moved his entire family out to New York while he performs in The Heiress on Broadway. Dockery's and Steven's characters are absolutely central to Downton Abbey as they are the inheritors, so it really will be an enomrous challenge for Julian Fellows, the creator of Downton, to find his way around that hurdle. But apparently, he "hasn't started writing series four yet so there is time to work out how the story will go and who will be in it."