Decorating the Christmas tree was once a simple affair. Attach a string of fairy lights, add tinsel and some colorful balls, and decorate the festive halls.
Now, however, people like Laura Howell make the art of tree styling much more expensive – and far more expensive.
As families flock to garden centers this weekend to fight a 6-foot spruce, Laura is housed in her comfortable living room and looks proudly at the tree she set up shortly after the Bonfire night.
Not the typical £ 30 tree for her. Instead, they are 450-pound artificial pines that are 8 feet high and are adorned with 1,000 built-in, sparkling lights adorned with decorations that cost well over 1,000 pounds.
Sonya Latham and her husband Paul spent £ 2,000 decorating the three trees in their household – one of which is an 11-foot tree adorned with red and gold bullets that stands in the lobby
"People always tell me I'm obsessed with my Christmas tree," says Laura, 33.
"I know, I spent a lot of money on it, but I love it. Sometimes I am tempted to keep it up throughout the year because it is so beautiful. & # 39;
Extravagant as it may seem, Laura is anything but alone.
The festive season may just have begun, but it's already turning out to be the year of the spectacularly lavish Christmas tree of over £ 1,000.
Party decorations are quickly becoming the subject of the latest game of one-upmanship – with money and an Instagram account surpassing each other with the size, decorations and price of their Christmas spruce.
Celebrities rush to be the first to unveil their efforts – usually professionally and with a staggering cost.
English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and his fiancée Megan Davison have shown their tree, which was almost invisible under an avalanche of bullets, ribbons and stuffed animals, including polar bears and penguins.
It is believed that the not-too-subtle creation cost nearly £ 2,000.
The comedian Paddy McGuinness posed in the garden of his house with a tree five times his size, in gleaming golden lights.
In her living room is a 9-foot tree adorned with white and gold balls. The retired couple, which has two children and three grandchildren, now has three stunning trees near Market Harborough in Leicestershire
And formerly competing Katie Piper posted two photos on Instagram last week. The first showed her stunning tree with sparkling Swarovski crystal ornaments.
The other was of a rather modest affair that was sweetly, albeit arbitrarily, decorated by her "creative little girl."
Katie is in good company, as there are more and more Christmas trees in certain circles.
The mother of the Duchess of Cambridge, Carole Middleton, revealed that she has several, including one for Prince George and Princess Charlotte to decorate herself.
John Lewis even offers a tree-styling service for up to £ 450, with staff picking a tree and decorations by hand, bringing them home and dressing them for you.
In a second reception room is another 9-foot tree, this time decorated in gold, purple and ivy
Those who choose to do the work themselves can spend a fortune. The store sells a five-meter-long artificial tree for the princely sum of £ 999.
Keri Sheehan is an interior designer known as the "Queen of Christmas" because she specializes in decorating Christmas trees for John Lewis and Peter Jones.
"People have become very competitive," she says. "Everyone wants him professionally designed to look good on social media.
Seeing the trees of other people – especially celebrities – has appealed to everyone.
"Having more than one tree is very popular today, and people often have one they decorate their children to hide in a bedroom, while their big show tree is beautifully designed and displayed in the hallway or living room."
For Laura, a cherished part of her Christmas preparations is that her tree looks as good as it is owned by celebrities. They start when most of us still enjoy the last summer fights.
"The Christmas collection will be released on the John Lewis website in September and I'm about to see the new themes so I can buy more decorations," says the mother of two from Stockport.
Every decoration that Laura owns has a special meaning for her or her daughters, Scarlett, eight and Sienna, five.
"I spend more than £ 15 each for many of them, but I love them all because they have a story," she says.
This week, Laura Howell (pictured with her daughters Scarlett 8 and Sienna 5) transforms the art of tree styling into something far more elaborate – and much more expensive
"Every year, I buy handcrafted girls by name and date at craft fairs. They like pretty, girlish designs, so we have unicorns, mermaids and fairies and balls that are beaded or iridescent.
"I like glass and wood, so they are expensive and I buy more and more. I just found an astronaut that I loved because I wanted it as a kid. & # 39;
According to Keri, Laura's passion for unique decorations is one of the biggest trends of the year. "I've seen so many unusual designs – squid, cacti, unicorns," she says.
"Personalization is very popular, as are heirlooms, which are very expensive and intended as investments that should be kept for a long time."
The most sought-after designs include Gisela Graham, whose filigree fairy and ballerina ornaments cost up to £ 100.
"Decorations are like pieces of jewelry that hang on the tree," says Keri. "I see more and more bling."
Laura's Christmas craze comes from her childhood, when her mother waited two weeks before the big day to build the family tree.
"I would be desperate to do it sooner and she would say," If you have your own house, you can do it as soon as you want. "
Now she jokes: "You really did hold on, did not you?" & # 39;
She adorns the rest of her house with snow globes and Christmas pillows. Her collection of decorations is so extensive that Laura and her mother needed two hours to get them all from the loft.
"The boxes filled the living room," she laughs.
"I do it all while the girls are outside telling them that elves decorated it. It makes me so happy to make everything look magical for her.
"And the tree is the most important part – it's my pride and my joy."
While setting up the tree has become a popular festive ritual for people like Laura, the ultimate Christmas treat has to hire someone to decorate your tree for you. So you can sit back and watch as your home becomes a winter wonderland.
The business is booming for style specialists. Anya Banks runs a top-notch Christmas decoration company and says it's never been in such high demand.
"It was absolutely crazy this year," she says. "It was extremely busy and I also noticed that it started earlier than usual."
The houses Anya has already transformed include Sonya Latham and her husband Paul.
The retired couple, which has two children and three grandchildren, now has three stunning trees near Market Harborough in Leicestershire.
In its entrance hall stands an 11 foot beauty adorned with red and gold balls, bows and golden branches.
The living room has a 9-foot tree adorned with gold, silver and white ornaments and cinnamon sticks. In a second reception room is another 9-foot tree, this time decorated in gold, purple and ivy.
"It's a treat, but it's so beautiful," says Sonya, 61.
"The trees look so special and they are perfect – if I tried for fourteen days, I would never let them look so beautiful."
All trees are artificial, but Sonya sprinkles them with pine scent to "get the best of both worlds." She and Paul also have countless balls, bows and lights.
"When we met Anya, she came to our house to discuss what we wanted and to see the colors of the rooms," says Sonya.
"She got us the balls and garlands first, and every year she fills in everything that looks a little tired.
She pays attention to things I like, like the golden pear ornaments she found that year. & # 39;
For £ 2,000, Anya and her team of five arrived at 9:00 am on November 29, spending more than six hours assembling and clipping the trees.
They also decorated other parts of Sony's house, including her orangery, where they hung twigs and twinkling lights.
On January 4, with the rest of us dragging our worn out firs to the local recycling center, Anya's team will reappear, tearing everything down and tidying everything up in boxes, and their home looks immaculate.
For Sonya and Paul, the prize for the pleasure that the immaculately decorated trees will bring in the coming weeks is well worth it.
"We love Christmas and the whole family celebrates it in our house, we want everything to be as inviting as possible," says Sonya.
"It's Paul's birthday just before Christmas, so we celebrate it too – the decorations are seen by many people. Our trees make us happy, so why not celebrate properly when we can? & # 39;
But not only extravagant decorations or several trees cost thousands.
Even minimally decorated trees have big price tags, as Jaclyn Ford and her partner Steve Johnson found when they splashed £ 1,600 on an artificial tree for their home in Cheshire.
Steve, 56, and Jaclyn, 40, have preferred the 8-foot tree with 4,750 lights in their living room.
"It's a lot of money, but we see it as an investment," says Jaclyn, who works for Steve's utility company.
"The lights go from the middle to the tips of the branches and there are no cables that are my pet hates.
It's the first year we've bought an artificial tree, but it looks very realistic. & # 39;
The expensive taste of the couple extends to the minimalist ornaments. "All the balls are made of silver and glass that reflect the lights – it's tasteful with a simple wicker skirt from White Company," she says.
"I spent more than £ 400 on the Marks & Spencer decorations. With such a large tree, of course, he needed a lot to cover it. & # 39;
Steve's kids are grown-up, but they're going to have friends and family parties during the Christmas season. Therefore, they consider the investment as rewarding.
Some will see that level of extravagance for a season that is over too fast as festive madness.
But Jaclyn says, "We love Christmas and it's great to have something that everyone can enjoy when they come by. We are proud of our house, so we wanted a tree that we could be proud of. & # 39;