How does your neighbourhood scrub up for the festive season? Does it make an effort and put on a good show?
Or are you fobbed off with a stunted Christmas tree and a few flickering lights strung along the High Street?
People in Cardiff are up in arms because, having been promised a huge 40m-tall Christmas tree from China, they have had to make do with a measly 40ft specimen.
Grumbles have also been heard from Cinderford in Gloucestershire, where the verdict of one resident on the town’s 2016 tree is scathing: ‘I know it’s tall, but it hasn’t got a nicely shaped bottom.’
The season to be jolly: The Christmas market in Derby
Not for the first time, the season of goodwill is being marred by nitpicking.
Every neighbourhood approaches Christmas slightly differently, sometimes with consequences for local house prices.
Market towns are well known for commanding a property premium, so it is not fanciful to suggest those that look magnificent at Christmas, and invest in a full-blown festive market, are likely to attract more house-buyers than ones that look tacky or lacklustre.
‘Christmas markets are a sign of a strong community,’ says Rupert Sweeting, head of Knight Frank’s country department. ‘They flourish in areas where people have cash to spend and the property market is also in good shape.’
Knight Frank’s research corroborates that view, with areas known for their Christmas markets — from London’s Southbank to cities such as Brighton — recording above-average price rises over the past five years.
An historic city such as Bath will never lack visitors and, in PR terms, its Christmas market is the icing on the cake: a fitting showcase for local produce and crafts. But other areas have reaped a more tangible benefit.
Festive appeal: Southbank Centre Christmas market in London
Exeter used to be derided as a ‘clone town’, with independent shops and businesses squeezed out of the centre by chain stores.
Now, thanks in part to its popular Christmas market, held in the grounds of the cathedral, it has reconnected with its historic roots. House prices in the city have risen by 21 per cent over the past five years.
Today, you do not need to travel too far to find a Christmas market of some description. But it is easy to forget that it was only quite recently that festive markets, long a fixture in many European countries, crossed the Channel.
Birmingham’s Christmas market, which now attracts more than five million visitors, only dates back to 2001. The original 24 stalls have swollen to nearly 200.
It is a similar story in Manchester. A small German-style Christmas market was first held in St Ann’s Square in 1999. Now there are mini-Christmas markets across the city.
Arguably the best example of a town getting every last ounce out of Christmas is Rochester in Kent, whose Dickensian Christmas festival has been a fixture since 1988.
Where other markets borrow ideas from the Continent, with stalls selling German sausages and gluhwein, Rochester pays homage to the author of A Christmas Carol, who lived nearby and did more than anyone else to shape the modern Christmas.
It is all great fun, with actors in Victorian costume, and the magic seems to have rubbed off on the property market. In 2015, house prices in Rochester rose by 15 per cent, one of the biggest increases in the country.
If there is a bonus for communities that make an effort at Christmas, there are penalties for ones that make too much effort. A survey in 2006 found that a quarter of house-hunters would be put off buying a property next to one with garish or over-the-top Christmas decorations.
Those jolly seasonal displays can be killers. You may find Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer cute. But others could kick him back up the chimney. One man’s ‘Ho ho ho!’ is another man’s ‘I don’t believe it!’
In my neck of the woods, Oxford, Christmas would not be Christmas without the house across the street sporting a life-sized Santa shinning down the side of the house with a sack of presents on his back.
I have got used to the Santa over the years. I would probably miss it if it was not there. But would I put my house on the market in late December? No way. I would wait until the neighbourhood looked a bit less like a suburb of New York.
But we should not underestimate the power of the Christmas feel-good factor to shift properties.
You can be sure that someone, somewhere, is probably already preparing to give their nearest and dearest a £1million studio in Chelsea as a Christmas present.
Gloucestershire: Overlooking the green in Duntisbourne Abbots, Elm Cottage is well positioned for the Christmas and farmers’ markets of Cirencester. The three-bedroom Cotswold stone property has an Aga and open fireplace. knightfrank.co.uk £595,000 Shropshir: Five-bedroom, Grade II-listed Corbel House dates from the 16th century and has original floors, exposed timbers and the remains of a stone corbel or bracket. In the heart of Ludlow, it’s in prime position for the town’s Medieval Christmas Fayre. struttandparker.com £595,000