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Selecting & Caring for Your Real Tree

Choosing a real Christmas tree is a fun outing for the whole family and easy to do. Here are a few simple steps for selecting the perfect tree.

In most households, the holiday season didn’t begin until the family went to the local lot or tree farm to pick out their tree. Then, the whole family would decorate the tree. Gifts would be wrapped and placed underneath it. And, on Christmas morning, the family would once again join around the tree waiting for the festivities to begin. The scent, aroma, and the real tree itself were an integral part of the family unity as well as the holiday season itself. This tradition continues to this day as more than 37 million families celebrate with a real Christmas tree.

The celebrating of Christmas with a real tree has been a tradition for over 400 years. At one time, all Christmas trees were cut from natural stands (or straight out of the forest). As you can imagine, these wild trees looked nothing like today's professionally grown and sheared trees. Today, 98% of trees are grown on tree farms. These tree farms may sell them to local lots, or act as a choose and cut farm where people go to select and cut down their own fresh tree.

To make your tradition a more memorable and pleasant one, we’d like to offer a few helpful hints when selecting a tree:

  • Do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree.
  • Once you've chosen your tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind and sun until you are ready to decorate it.
  • Before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk (about a quarter inch up from the original cut) and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water or more.
  • Warning: Keep the tree stand filled with water. A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree, preventing the tree from absorbing water later when the tree stand is refilled. If a seal does form, another fresh cut will need to be made.
  • A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter. Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water also keeps the tree fragrant.
  • Warning:In addition, keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Test your light cords and connections before hanging them on the tree to make sure they're in good working order. You don't want to use cords with cracked insulation or broken or empty sockets. Also be sure to unplug the lights before you go to bed or leave the house. Never overload electrical circuits.

Sensible precautions such as these will help preserve the unique beauty and tradition that only a real Christmas tree can provide.

Watering Your Real Tree

Should I add something to the water in my Christmas Tree Stand?

We've gotten some interesting mail on this topic. Some people have seen TV or newspaper advertisements for products that you add to the water in your tree stand. Others have concocted their own mixtures, with ingredients such as sugar, bleach, 7-Up, syrup, or the ever-popular vodka.

Tree StandSo, what's the best thing to add to your tree stand?

Dr. Gary Chastagner, a researcher at Washington State University, has been working with Christmas trees, and his findings suggest that your best bet is plain old tap water. It doesn't have to be distilled water or mineral water or anything like that. So, the next time someone tells you to add ketchup or something even more bizarre to your tree stand, don't believe it. Just add water!


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