A simple explanation of how to put up a real Christmas tree. Keep your tree fresh and upright!
Putting up your Christmas tree doesn't need to feel like a scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Broken windows, enormous trees, gratuitous chainsaw wielding-- if you follow some basic steps, you won't be faced with Chevy Chase-ian nightmare over the holidays.
Step 1: Buy A Tree Stand
The next thing you need to do is get your tree stand ready. If you don't have a tree stand, now is the time to buy one. A good tree stand should have these features:
- It should sit level on the floor and not wobble-- if the stand is wobbling now, imagine what it'll be like when it has a tree in it!
- It should have some kind of dish, reservoir or pot to hold water-- because your tree will need to stay hydrated over the holiday season.
- It should have mounting screws, clamps or brackets-- if the stand is essentially just a big hole to drop the tree trunk in, you won't be able to set the precise amount of tension that you'll need to keep your tree upright.
Step 2: Pick Your Tree
You have a few different options when it comes to finding your tree. One increasingly popular choice is to find a retailer who will sell you a fresh tree, pre-cut and pre-mounted to a sturdy base. If you're going for that option, congratulations-- your work is done!
But if you've taken the more traditional route, you'll either need to fell your own tree at a tree farm, or pick one up at your local grocer/greenhouse/tree lot. If you're cutting down your own tree, make sure that you're:
- Allowed to cut the tree (don't trespass, don't take trees not meant to be harvested)
- Following safety rules (don't use equipment that you aren't fully trained and comfortable with; keep kids safe and safely away from the cutting; know the direction of tree fall)
When you have your tree, you'll be ready to move on to the most baffling and important step.
Step 3: Preparing Your Tree To Be Mounted
The first thing you should do is cut an inch off the base of the tree. This will allow the tree to absorb water and nutrients over the coming weeks, keeping it fresh and well-hydrated.
You should also get two things ready now, so that you don't have to worry about them later:
1) A watering can (this is how you'll sneak the water into the tray)
2) A friend to help you lift and straighten the tree
Step 4: Mounting Your Tree
First, double-check your measurements. Keep kids and pets clear of the area you'll be working in. Unplug any electrical cords that you might accidentally pull out, and extinguish and sources of open flame (candles, etc.) that you might accidentally upset.
Next, have your friend grab the tree by the trunk, near the base. You grab near the top. Don't take off the netting yet! Carefully lower the tree into the stand; when it's in, you should hold the top level while your friend turns the clamps/screws in the base to apply even pressure to the trunk.
Step 5: Fine-Tuning
Now, cut off the netting that covered the tree. Make sure to dispose of it somewhere where pets and little ones won't get into it.
Be ready for sudden tips when the branches come down! Once the branches have settled, walk around the tree to see if it looks level from every angle. If it isn't, you should hold the trunk of the tree to stabilize it, while your friend fine-tunes the clamps. (IMPORTANT NOTE: ALWAYS FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS PROVIDED BY THE TREE STAND'S MANUFACTURER).
Now, add water, decorate, and you're set.
Here are some important final thoughts, now that your tree is up:
- THINK FIRE SAFETY: Don't use open flames near the tree, use safe, new, approved and properly installed lights, don't overload plugs or circuits, and never run extension cords under the tree skirt or under rugs.
- THINK PET SAFETY: If you've added nutrient mixes to your tree stand's water dish, can your cat, dog or other animals get into it? Make sure they can't.
- KEEP THE TREE WATERED: It will look greener, and will dry out slower. A kindling-dry tree is like a book of matches ready to be struck.
- THINK KID SAFETY: If you have young kids, make sure that:
- The tree is properly mounted (consider anchoring it to the wall or ceiling if necessary) to avoid it falling/being pulled onto them.
- Don't use breakable, glass ornaments if you have young kids. The shards of glass can be extremely sharp.
- Keep small objects and ornaments out of the reach of your kids-- or better, don't use them at all. If your kids are young enough to worry about them putting things into their mouths and choking, be super-vigilant.
A real tree brings nostalgia, a wonderful scent, and a great visual element to your home over the holidays. If you're prepared, careful and take your time, putting it up can be as much fun as looking at it.