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Christmas Tree Tips: Choosing, Setting Up and Trimming Your Tree

Every December, 33 million evergreen trees are hauled from frosty fields and forests into homes across the country, where they will be transformed into one of the most enduring symbols of the holidays- the Christmas tree.

Whether yours is a majestic fir or a silvery spruce, turn your tree into a glistening centerpiece with these tips for trimming.

Choosing Your Christmas Tree

With nearly one million acres of land devoted to growing Christmas trees in the United States, there are a lot of different kinds to choose from.

The best trees are known for their symmetry, needle retention, attractive foliage and distinctive fragrances.

The freshest tree you can buy is one that is picked from a field and cut right in front of you. Once it's been cut, shake the tree to remove any dead needles that are lodged in the branches.

If you are buying a tree from a lot, check the tree's freshness by testing how firmly the needles are attached to the branches.

Reach into the heart of the tree, grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and slide your hand along the branch towards you. If the tree is fresh, very few needles should fall off.

Christmas Tree Set Up Tips

Once you've chosen the perfect tree, the next step is moving it to its designated spot in your home. A few preparatory measures can make this daunting job easier.

Before you bring the tree inside, make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk to remove any dried sap.

To keep the needles from dropping everywhere, wrap the tree in an old sheet as you drag it through the house.

Get it into a stand right away, and water it. Freshly cut trees absorb as much as a gallon of water per day. Check the stand and make sure the bottom of the trunk is always immersed.

Tips to Light Your Christmas Tree

If the task of lighting the Christmas tree makes you reach for an aspirin bottle, here are some ways that you can light your tree efficiently and beautifully (with fewer headaches!):

Christmas tree lights are either stacked or placed end to end--check the boxes of lights before you buy them to make sure that they are all compatible. Replace any dead or dying bulbs and check that the cord isn't damaged.

By individually wrapping branches with strands of lights, you can minimize exposed cords. Start at the bottom bough and string the lights along the underside of each branch.

Wind the strand tightly around the topmost shoot and down the nearest branch; then wrap the lights back around the same branch.

Start another branch the same way, near the same level. Continue with this method, working your way down and around the tree, plugging in additional strands of lights if necessary.

Wear protective gloves and a long-sleeved shirt as you work--the needles can be sharp.

Run an extension cord from an electrical outlet to the tree. Plug in the first strand of lights, and run it to the top of the tree.

Don't forget to unplug the lights when you go to bed each night.

Lighting Options:

For subdued lighting, use about 12 boxes of lights for a 6-foot tree and about 20 boxes for an 8-foot tree.

For moderate lighting, use 20 boxes for a 6-foot tree and 30 boxes for an 8-foot tree.

For showcase lighting, use 40 boxes and 80 boxes, respectively.

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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