Christmas trees: this year's festive fashions

I read the cutest thing the other day. Apparently, in the olden times, people used to let their children decorate the Christmas tree! Isn't that adorable? I mean, imagine doing that now. They say kids grow up fast, but seriously – would you trust a primary-school child to know that pugs and owls are hotter than reindeer and squirrels this year? Can even the most expensively tutored pre-schooler really be expected to understand why a brussel sprout wreath is actually very festive and ivy-plus-ribbons feels a bit old? And if they're not even old enough to drive, should they really be shouldering the responsibility of making a call on exactly how many glitter-sprayed pine cones look right piled under a glass bell jar, when that is a style statement by which your entire family will be judged from now until 12th night?

Steady on, before you choke on your granola (if that is what muesli-eaters treat themselves to at this time of year). I am joking. Actually, I'm only sort of joking. What kind of person treats Christmas as a style statement, right? Um, well, take a look around you: quite a lot of people, I'd say. Christmas trees are unveiled as public art installations (Lego at St Pancras station, Lanvin at Claridge's), while the must-have decoration of the year – Paperchase's giant version of those silver bows that you stick on presents, perfect for slap-bang in the middle of your mirror – sold out faster than Versace for H&M. Unwrapping the decorations you use every year will always be one of the great Christmas traditions, but the inevitable attrition rate of baubles means that there is always, always room for one new treasure, the sourcing of which is a Christmas treat – one that you can enjoy well before the 25th.

But Christmas 2011-style is not about trying to be chic. The uber-tasteful minimal-chic Christmas – a huge, expensive tree with zillions of white lights and nothing else; three Diptyque Perdigone candles on a marble fireplace, filling the air with a casual £100-worth of spiced-plum aroma – that was a boomtime Christmas fantasy. When the good times were rolling, going all out for Christmas felt like gilding the lily. But all that has changed with the recession. Julie Hassan, the buyer responsible for Liberty's cavernous Christmas shop (the fashionables' favourite bauble-spot, FYI) says: "The strict white-and-silver-only style Christmas was a luxury, and now that times are harder people want Christmas to feel more cheerful and upbeat." Nostalgic picture-scene baubles and feelgood baby-animal figurines are where it's at. Here's your at-a-glance guide to the motifs topping this year's Christmas charts.

Scandinavia

The Killing is many things but Christmassy is not one of them, surely? Au contraire!Gingerbread houses, a Swedish tradition, are to your festive Christmas décor what a Sarah Lund jumper is to your winter wardrobe right now. Scandinavian chic is on-the-money for Christmas 2011. You can even match your tree to your fashionable new jumper. "Knitted woollen baubles, or anything felted, are flying out of the store," says Hassan.

Advent

It's official: Christmas really does start earlier every year. "Anything advent sold really well this year," says Hassan. "We had a garland with 24 tiny stockings that sold out the moment it hit the shopfloor." Now that the dire absence of good news means being excited about Christmas is socially acceptable again, claiming the entirety of December as the festive season is where it's at.

Home Alone kitsch

Remember Macaulay Culkin's house in the original Home Alone film? It was gaudy and American and naff in a fabulously 1990 way, with a kitchen full of mod-cons and a sitting room full of flouncy upholstery, and no style whatsoever. Well, that look is totally hot right now. Think snowmen, candy canes and clashing-colour baubles.

Frozen Planet chic

Penguins are to 2011 what reindeers were to 2010. Let your kids push them around the Somerset House ice rink, and hang chocolate ones off your tree. Alternatively, replace the life-size Santa with a giant fluffy polar bear. For something a little different, do as Marc Jacobs has done in his Mayfair store and base your festive look around sharks.

Supersize me

What every fashionista really wants under her tree this year is one of young designer Stephen Johnson's Happy Happy bows: enormous polished aluminium sculptures in the shape of the stick-on gift bows they sell in newsagents. Johnson describes it as "a product designed to make you happy", which it does, until you see the pricetag. The good news is that giant wooden stars, outsize paper bells and pom poms are all also available to help raise a smile.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011

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