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Ins and outs of decorating your Christmas tree
Home & Garden Television


December 06, 2005

The Christmas tree is the heart of any Christmas decor. For many American families, the process of finding and decorating a tree is a tradition. In fact, there are some who believe that Christmas just isn't Christmas without a live tree.

Just like any other decorating project, my co-host, Shari Hiller, and I have found that putting up a Christmas tree takes a bit of planning.

The first step in this process is to decide on where you will place the tree.

Be sure to choose a spot away from any sources of heat, including air ducts, radiators or fireplaces. Once you've chosen the perfect spot, measure the height and width of the space you have available.

Alliance Realty - Debbie Karlson - Ketchikan, Alaska


Remember to include the height of your tree stand and treetop decoration in your estimates. And keep in mind, too, that trees always seem smaller on the lot than they do in your living room, so consider taking a tape measure with you to the lot.

It's important to find the freshest tree available. Some families like to cut their own trees to ensure freshness. If you are purchasing a tree from a lot, look for a tree with a healthy green appearance. The needles should be shiny, soft and pliable, not dry or brittle.

Be sure to choose a tree with a straight base.

Some people feel that trees with shorter needles are easier to decorate. Fraser or Noble Fir trees tend to have spaces between the branches, allowing the ornaments to hang straight down. Their branches also tend to be stronger and better able to hold heavy ornaments.

Did you know that when a Christmas tree is first cut, more than half of its weight is water? Maintaining proper hydration is the best way to keep your tree looking its best.

Once home, place your tree in water as soon as possible. Make a fresh cut to remove a half to one inch off the base of the tree before putting your tree into the stand.

If you are not putting your tree up right away, store it in a protected area where it will not be subjected to freezing temperatures. Make that inch cut off the base and then place the tree in a bucket of warm water. When you decide to bring the tree inside, make another cut to ensure proper hydration.

Check the stand daily to make sure there is sufficient water to cover the base of the tree. With proper care, a tree can safely be kept indoors for several weeks.

Decorating the Christmas tree can be an all-day affair. I've found that a good way to pace yourself is to plan a treat between each stage of the decorating process. Untangling five strings of lights doesn't seem nearly as frustrating when a plate of homemade cookies is within easy reach.

After straightening out the lights (and having your first snack), it's time to string the lights on the tree. For a beautifully lit tree, run a green or brown extension cord along the spine of the tree. Then, instead of stringing the lights around the tree, try wrapping the individual branches, beginning in the interior of the tree and working your way to the outer edges.

Now that the tree is lit (and you've eaten a few candy canes), it's time to start decorating. For added interest, Shari likes to add some extra greens to her tree, including holly or berry branches. This is also the time to add a garland if you'd like.

Next come the ornaments. I enjoy this part of the tree decorating process so much that I don't even need a snack to motivate me. I love unwrapping the ornaments and all the memories that go with them.

As you begin to decorate your tree, place the largest ornaments first. They will become focal points. Place the smaller ornaments to fill in any remaining open spaces.

There are two distinct decorating styles with regard to the completion of a Christmas tree. There are those families who consider the tree finished when the last ornament has been placed, and those who believe that the most important part of the job is still ahead. Families in the latter group believe in the use of tinsel, a process which can be very time consuming, it can easily require three treats before completion.

After all your hard work, it's time to sit back and enjoy your beautiful Christmas tree. After all, it is the heart of your holiday decor and a big part of the magic of Christmas.


Matt Fox and Shari Hiller, alternate writing this column. They also appear together frequently on Home & Garden Television decorating programs. For more on Matt Fox & Shari Hiller, visit or Distributed to subscribers by Scripps Howard News Service.

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