It’s the one tree you don’t want to hug, even if that is your thing. A prickly presence in the corner of your living room for four or five weeks, and then a reluctant recluse in the garden as you seek to hang on to it for next year.

Seems like a good idea at the time, but you usually end up going out and buying a fresh one. Nice, healthy branches, bristling with needles and a pine aroma that permeates the house. Well, that’s the theory, anyway. The type of tree you buy will go some way to dictating whether you succeed or not, and the way you dress it can be make or break in the tasteful decor department.

As far as buying is concerned, a key factor is to get in quick when there has been a fresh delivery at the shop. That way you’ll minimise the time the tree has to dry out since it was felled and therefore reduce the threat of it shedding needles just days into its marathon stint as the pile of presents grows beneath it.

Before you leave home, measure the space where it’s going to stand and make sure you don’t buy one that’s too big.

Most trees come with a descriptive label highlighting its characteristics – whether it has high needle retention, which is so important in a centrally heated home, whether it has thick, bushy appearance or a spindly look which, incidentally, is going to be fashionable this year (less is more, apparently).

Most real trees are sold pre-cut, but you’ll need to slice a few centimetres off once you get it home and stand it in water immediately.

If you don’t already have a self-watering tree stand now is the time to get one.

If you go for an artificial tree there’s no disputing that it’s all down to personal taste and the age-old saying that you get what you pay for.

Bear in mind that if you shell out top dollar it will be around for a few years, so if you’re the type of person who likes to keep up with fashion you might be regretting spending so much on one that’s going to last a decade when it begins to show its age after two Christmases.

Two key factors in decorating a tree are the Wow factor and the Ah factor.

The Wow factor is the clever knack of picking a colour or design theme. Take a look at the fashion rails in the posh frock shops to get an idea of the ‘in’ colours, and then you’ll amaze guests at your party when they turn up and blend perfectly with your tree décor scheme.

The Ah factor is the home-made decorations provided by the children of your family.

Don’t forget some little treats. Edible goodies are a must on any tree, but it doesn’t have to be chocolate.

You can make or buy little bags and pop tiny surprises in them, such as grapes or nuts, or other little touches that you know will please the little ones.

And then you can have a nice hug from the kids – instead of the tree.