’Tis the season for creating the perfect holiday setting, and you should start with a Christmas tree that complements your personal style and space. Then take your tree’s overall theme—whether it’s a group of colors, a mix of patterns, or a cast of characters—and extend it all around your home. Be sure to make these activities a pivotal part of your family’s holiday traditions; including loved ones in the selection and decoration of your tree will ensure fond Christmas memories for many years to come.
BEFORE YOU BUY: FRESH-CUT, LIVE, OR ARTIFICIAL
If you love the smell of pine and don’t mind the mess of falling needles or daily watering, a fresh-cut tree may be right for you. Most trees come from the fir, spruce, or pine families. Keep in mind that trees are often suited to particular regions, which can affect their availability in your area. As for basic set up, just trim off a few inches at the bottom of the trunk, securely position it in a stand, and water regularly.
For those who prefer a more environmental option, and have a place to plant an evergreen outdoors, a live tree is a great selection. This type of tree arrives in either a large pot or a burlap sack with its roots completely intact. After enjoying the tree over your Christmas holiday, plant it right into your yard. If you are selecting a live tree, be sure to do your homework and choose a species that will grow and thrive in your particular climate.
If you or someone in your family has allergies, or if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a real tree, an artificial Christmas tree is the perfect alternative. Today’s artificial trees are available in a wide array of types and sizes with a variety of branch tips—they’re often molded from branches of real species for a convincingly natural look. You’ll find trees with tips modeled to look like those of firs, pines, spruces, and other holiday classics. Best of all, new technology makes set up faster than ever before: just wheel the tree into place, flip the main section, attach the treetop, plug it in, and let the decorating begin.
LIGHT IT UP: PRE-LIT OR SELF-LIT
One of the many advantages of decorating with an artificial tree is that they are often pre-lit with professionally installed lights—all you have to do is assemble the tree, plug it in, and you’re ready to decorate. Most pre-lit trees offer clear or multi-colored lights; in some cases, you can select from incandescent or LED bulbs. Keep in mind, if you like to leave your lights on for six or more hours a day, plan to replace your tree or all of its lights every two or three seasons (or after 3,000 total hours of use).
If you light your tree yourself, you can get creative by using vintage-style lights or battery-operated LED strands. Whether you’re preparing for an artificial, fresh-cut, or live tree, the general rule for lighting is 100 incandescent lights per foot of the tree’s height-a little less if you use strings of LEDs. Expect to replace several strands of lights each season.
DIMENSIONAL DECISIONS: HEIGHT AND WIDTH
Height is paramount when selecting the perfect tree. Are you looking to decorate a tabletop or reach a cathedral ceiling? In most cases, plan to keep your tree 6 to 12 inches lower than your ceiling. This ensures that your Christmas tree adequately fills the room, but also leaves enough space for tree toppers and decorations that extend above the highest branches. Trees are typically measured from the floor to the top of the tree; note that artificial tree heights listed online usually include the stand.
Remember to keep width and girth in mind. Fuller trees are the standard and work best when placing a tree in a traditional space. Slim and pencil trees also available, which provide a perfect fit in more compact areas like entryways and alcoves. And don’t forget about density and profile! For example, if you love to fill boughs with yards of ribbon and substantial ornaments, you should select a tree with deeper branch pockets.
ORNAMENTS AND TRIM: DECORATIONS THAT DAZZLE
The ornaments you choose should complement and transform your home’s décor. Be mindful of where you display them: delicate pieces are best reserved for a tree in a formal room, while sturdy, non-breakable ornaments are better suited for a bustling family room, kitchen, or child’s playroom. Collecting new ornaments every year creates a tradition all its own. And don’t be afraid to blend new colors, patterns, and textures with your existing pieces. Ornaments aren’t the only decorations for your tree! Weave lovely ribbons throughout the limbs, either vertically down the tree or horizontally around it. Add a bounty of picks, branches, and blooms that include flowers, leaves, and berries for extra dimension. Assemble a cast of characters to take residence in your tree, like elves, fairies, or even owls. Be sure to include a decorative tree skirt, or use a faux fur blanket or a tablecloth instead. Finally, top off your tree with a traditional star or angel, or even a large bow, a cascade of ribbons, or whimsical Santa hat.
BEYOND THE TREE: ACCESSORIZING YOUR SPACE
Did you know that ornaments aren’t just for decorating trees? Hang them in front of windows and add them to your mantel, or attach them to beautifully wrapped packages. Use the same ribbon from your tree as a border for tablecloths, table runners, and candles. Fill glass domes and adorn Christmas wreaths, garlands, and swags with the same picks and ribbons found in your tree.
What are you waiting for? Refresh your holiday décor by selecting your special tree, adding new ornaments to your collection, and inviting your clan to put it all together over hot cocoa or mulled wine. Memorable holiday moments are just waiting to be made.
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