Christmas is a breath away, and most of you have already found a Christmas tree that speaks to your heart, which is now adorning your living area, sharing some of the jubilant spirit that distinguishes this festive season. As for those of you that are still searching for the perfect Christmas tree and are not savvy tree shoppers, here are some tips to help you not only choose the best tree for you, but also put it up quite effortlessly, keep it fragrant and safe, and store ornaments properly. Time to end this quest, at least, for his year!
Buying the Perfect Christmas Tree
First of all, and before you go tree hunting, measure the height of your ceiling (where you will put the tree up) and make a note that the selected tree should ideally be, at least, one foot shorter. You also need to measure the opening of the tree so that you can be sure the base of the tree you will pick will fit perfectly and not feel like “Wuthering Heights”. The base should be 6+ inches long and straight to fit into the tree stand nicely.
2. Freshness Tests With Needles
When in front of many trees trying to decide which one to buy, run your fingers along their needles. If you notice a lot of them fall off, the tree is probably not fresh. You can also give it a good shake to be certain of that. Also, if the needles are flexible and don’t snap when you bend them in half (just use one or two for this test!), this is a good sign. Finally, gently put your hands inside of a branch and grab it. Pull it out towards you. Do you see many needles fall off? If yes, then keep searching for a different Christmas tree.
3. Freshness of the Tree Based on its Colour
The perfect tree should have an even colouration. Most trees meant to become Christmas trees are either dark green or dark blue-gray to silvery blue (i.e. Colorado Blue Spruce type) while some others have a bright, light green colour. If you notice that the tree you are looking at fades from dark to light green (not to mention grey-green), you know it is probably a tree that’s dried out.
Best Tree Types
The 5 varieties with the richest colour, lush branches, premier needle retention, and best shape are:
Balsam Fir – It is dark green with a pyramidal shape, ¾ – 1 ½-inch needles, and strong fragrance.
Noble Fir – It has blue-grey with silver appearance, 1-inch unturned needles, pyramidal shape, and stiff branches (perfect for heavier ornaments and to create wreaths, garlands, and swags).
Douglas Fir – It’s dark or blue-green, and has 1 – 1 ½-inch long-lasting needles, pyramidal shape, and a sweet, subtle scent.
Scotch Pine – Its colour ranges from dark greens to blue greens, and has stiff, sturdy branches, a conical shape, lasting aroma, and excellent needles retention.
Fraser Fir – Pyramidal shaped, it has ½ – 1-inch needles, fresh fragrance, strong branches, and a beautiful dark green colouration.
It is important to know what you want because each tree species is slightly different. For example, firs or pines with soft needles might be best if you have kids, as opposed to spruce trees that come with sharp needles, which could hurt when stepped on. Find a tree variety that matches your needs and try to locate it in the market. If you don’t know where to find the tree type you are looking for, you can refer to the National Christmas Association, who will be more than happy to provide you with a list of tree farms in your area.
Keeping it Fresh
1.Cut off the Base
As soon as you buy the tree, have the Christmas tree lot cut about half (to one) inch off the base of the tree trunk. This will make it easier for the tree to absorb water to better maintain its colour and hold its needles. Just make sure they cut it straight so that it stands upright and that you place the tree in water right after the cut.
2. Water it
If you have a long drive home or are not planning to put it up right away, it is best to keep it moisturised by placing it in a bucket of water and stand it somewhere away from the cold and winds. Regardless of what you may hear, do not add anything in that water, such as aspirin, salt, bleach, or sugar to keep its freshness longer. Experts say that tree only needs plenty of plain water.
Finally, use a stand that can hold plenty of water (>one gallon) and ensure the water level never falls below the tree base because the tree’s cut end may seal over and not absorb any more water. To prevent mass needle fallout and maintain the tree’s fragrance, check the water level in the stand regularly within the day (usually, every few hours). Don’t be surprised if you need to add water quite often the first few days.
3. Protect it
When it’s time to bring it inside and put it up, refrain from placing it close to the fireplace (no matter how tempting) or any other heat source (i.e. heating vent); this could dry it out much faster than ordinary.
Taking it Down
After the festive season is over and you have to take the tree down, place a plastic tree bag underneath the tree stand, pull it up around the tree and carry it outside (with the stand and all). If you do this before you even put it up, things will be much more easier for you to take it down. You can find plastic tree bags in the nearest hardware store. Now, if you have placed the bag before you put up the tree, you can hide it with the tree skirt. Don’t forget to remove the stand before you go the tree to recycle facilities. After all is done, you may have some needles scattered inside; sweep them up (not vacuum them, though, to prevent clogging the vacuum cleaner), and you are done!
If stored properly and with all the care necessary, you can have your ornaments for many Christmases. This is particularly important if you use pieces the kids crafted in kindergartner or significant heirlooms passed down to you.
You can maintain ornaments in mint condition if you:
Place them in the right container – Top manufacturers of holiday decorations suggest we store ornaments in cardboard boxes, as long as they are sturdy and partitioned, and not in plastic containers that trap moisture inside (due to lack of air flow inside them) and damage ornaments. You can find sectioned cardboard boxes in liquor stores (free) or buy them.
Wrap them Correctly – It’s much better to protect the ornaments before we box them. The best way to do this is by wrapping them one by one in tissue paper (acid-free) or cotton cloth (100% cotton) and placing them in a way so that each box is not overstuffed.
Store them in the Perfect Place – A cool, dry place is heaven for storing ornaments and be certain that they won’t be damaged by either dampness, extreme temperatures which could cause paint to flake or mildew that could cause irreversible damage. So, attics and basements are out. Better consider an upper shelf in a closet.
Final Tips – Safety Rules
Besides avoiding to place the Christmas tree near a heat source, as mentioned above, to prevent fire hazards, it is also critical to:
Trim the lower branches, especially if you have pets or small children, to avoid eye injuries.
If you can’t have unbreakable (or not-so-easy-to-break) ornaments, keep the ones that break easily, as well as those with metal hooks or detachable parts or look like candy/food on the higher branches (out of reach of children). You may also consider using florist’s wire to hang fragile ornaments. Simply twist the wire around the branches.
If you cannot supervise the room where the tree is put up, and you have pets at home, it is best to keep them out of the room. We have all seen videos on YouTube of cats leaping onto Christmas trees. They may be cute to watch, but you really don’t want that to happen inside your home for sure! Besides toppling the tree, naughty pets can also cut themselves if they knock down the tree and glass ornaments break.
If you have pets, hide electrical cords and wires for Christmas-tree lights. We all know that some of them like to chew on these cords, which increases the risk of being electrocuted. Alternatively, you could purchase a pet-proof conduit.
Snowy trees look lovely when in nature. If you try to bring that snowy effect inside the home with the use of an artificial snow spray, chances are you may have lung irritation. If you need to use it, better secure your airway and make sure you don’t inhale it.
Always turn off the lights of the Christmas tree before you go to bed or leave the house.
Don’t be tempted to use cheaper extension cords and electrical decorations to save money. Only use UL-approved ones and always double check that the cords are in excellent condition (and not frayed) since the last time you used the Christmas lights.
Burning branches of the Christmas tree in your fireplace elevates the risk of fire because the branches release creosote when burned, which is highly flammable.