`I like the smell of a real tree'

Some demand a traditional Christmas tree. Others enjoy a more modern approach. Dame Barbara Cartland likes a bit of pink on hers. Paul Smith has opted for brass elephants. How are you decorating your tree this year?

Dame Barbara Cartland, author

CHRISTMAS MEANS a happy family and religious occasion to me. This year I'll be spending it at home with family. I have a tree every year. I always have a real one because they're more meaningful. For me the Christmas tree is always the embodiment of what Christmas stands for, and it symbolises the giving and receiving of presents. I got this one from a local nursery for pounds 20, which seems reasonable to me. This year it's been decorated with the usual fairy lights as I like it to look traditional. I, of course, like a bit of pink on my tree, along with all the other bright colours. I do not like too much gold or silver, just the bright colours. I think it's effective because it's bright and cheerful.

Jane Packer, florist

CHRISTMAS IS AN excuse to cram in as much fun as possible for my children Rebby, eight and Lola, six. It's all about creating wonderful memories for them, and we'll be spending it at home in London. We have a real tree because I like the scent. I don't care if the needles drop - that's part of my memories of when I was a child. The children have little real trees in their rooms, but I've done something different downstairs this year. When you're entertaining and a florist people have higher expectations. I've mounted up 6ft of oasis foam into the shape of a Christmas tree and covered it with about 1,000 carnations. Carnations last and they're making a comeback. I've also stuck in some frankincense and myrrh joss sticks. It's smelling wonderfully. It's taken me about three hours, and probably cost about pounds 500.

Paul Smith, fashion designer

TO ME Christmas means a day off. I always spend it at home with Pauline, my girlfriend. We don't have a tree every year, but when we do it's always real and always big. The best bit about a Christmas tree is its smell. The one thing I loathe on a Christmas tree is cotton wool. I haven't got a tree this year, but I've got spruce branches all over my shops. I've decorated a branch in my studio with things sent to me by fans all over the world including a wooden kangaroo, a hand-made rabbit, a wire bicycle, a ball of red string, two Chinese figures pulling a rickshaw, and two brass elephants. It's very personal.

Michael Landy, installation artist

CHRISTMAS used to be quite painful because it was the day my grandfather died, and every year my dad would cry when we sat down to eat. Then my sister gave birth on Christmas day and my dad stopped crying. This year I'm spending it with my girlfriend, Gillian Wearing, in Birmingham. I don't usually have a tree, I don't really like them. But I've made one for my cat, Ratakins (from Battersea Dogs' Home) this year because she's psychologically damaged and I thought it would cheer her up. I've used a ladder because she likes to sit on the top of it. It's covered with green bin liners, with bits of wood sticking out for branches. I've stuck on pictures from a cat calendar, and hung lots of toys and food for her on the branches. She's my fairy because she sits at the top, along with the words "Happy Ratnus". The best bit about Christmas trees is seeing them abandoned in the streets after Christmas, or on their way to be shredded by the council.

Tracie Bennett, actress and celebrity interviewer

CHRISTMAS IS a time to re-evaluate the year and think about what you should have done and shouldn't. It means children, fun, food, friends and family. I'll be in Barbados interviewing Bob Monkhouse, that's why my tree's so small. My sister gave it to me as joke last year because I'm always on the move. I'm going to put it in my suitcase. The silver foil stars on it came with a bunch of flowers given to me by the producer of Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes. I'm looking for more stuff for it to make me laugh when I'm abroad. I normally have a real one because I like the smell and dressing them up. When we have a party at a friend's house we always put bras on the tree as a joke. I'm funny about putting an angel on the top because I never like the thought of that tree sticking up her arse.

Tim Southwell, editor, `Loaded' magazine

CHRISTMAS MEANS several weeks of anticipation, and then sneaking downstairs at 4am with my brother to have a good poke around the presents. But he's away this year so I'll have to find someone else to conspire with. I'll be in Sussex visiting my parents with my girlfriend, Sophie, and our baby Alfie. We have a tree every year - I start badgering Sophie on about 5 October, and we usually pick it up on 5 December. It's always a real one, none of this Perspex and balsa wood rubbish. Also my carpets are quite bare so the needles which fall off provide social shelter from would- be critics. With the decorations we've gone for cluttered minimalism. I would describe it as menacingly understated in an overtly opulent fashion. It has the enduring appeal of a great Monet. People have been stopping in the street and staring at it in disbelief, which is strange because we live in a mews. What I hate most on Christmas trees are Ian Beale dolls and anvils, but you just can't tell some people. The best thing about them is the fact that they look like enormous cities when you're drunk.

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