Christmas Trees 101

Cutting down a Christmas tree has been a tradition in my family since I was 12 years old. I used to do it with my parents and siblings and now I do it with my wife and daughters. It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season and the kids really love it.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my 25+ years of dealing with Christmas trees.

Measure Before You Buy

Before you leave the house to pick out your tree there are two things you have to do.

  • Measure the height of the ceiling, and remember to subtract the height of the stand. If you’re anything like my family you always overestimate the size of the space and end up with a tree like the Griswolds.
  • Measure the opening of your tree stand. While most tree stands are adjustable, every now and then you’ll come across a tree with a huge trunk. You don’t want to be scrambling to find a new stand while the tree lies in the middle of your living room.

Choosing a Christmas Tree

When it comes to what type of tree to get, everyone has their favourite. Some people base it on color, others on shape, and for some people it’s all about the smell. If you’re having trouble deciding what kind of tree you want for your house check out this guide from the National Christmas Tree Association.

Make Sure it’s Fresh

If you’re buying a pre-cut tree you want to make sure it’s still fresh. Dried out trees can be a fire hazard when they’re covered in lights.

  • The first step is to ask where the tree came from. Ideally you want to make sure it’s a local farm so that it’s less likely to have spent a long time in transit.
  • Bend the needles to assess how fresh it really is. It should be hard to break them.
  • Touch the trunk. If it’s sticky it’s a good sign that it’s fresh.
  • Bounce the tree (bounce the trunk on the ground). If a lot of needles fall it could mean that the tree has dried out and it could be a fire hazard.
  • Before you take it home have someone at the lot make a fresh cut (or do it yourself when you get home). Once it’s been cut make sure to put it in the stand and water it within 2 hours. Otherwise it will glaze over and won’t absorb water as well.

Christmas Tree Safety

The holiday season requires a lot of extra safety precautions and many of them revolve around Christmas trees.

  • Place trees away from high traffic areas like doorways.
  • Keep trees away from any heat sources, including fireplaces, candles, portable heaters and heat vents.
  • If you have a real tree be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water because heated rooms can dry trees out quickly, which increases the risk of fire.
  • If you have children or pets don’t add chemicals to the Christmas tree water.
  • If you have small children or pets trim the bottom branches to avoid any injuries.
  • Don’t use any lights that have frayed wires or damaged sockets, and don’t connect more than 3 strands together.
  • Turn off the tree lights before you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Don’t burn any fallen branches in the fireplace. They can cause a buildup of creosote in the chimney which can be very dangerous.

For more information related to holiday decorating check out my Holidays Around the House Pinterest board.

Photos courtesy of iStockphoto.com /Nathaniel_Young, /Willowpix