How to pick a REAL Christmas 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 plantations. These plantations may sell them to local lots, or act as choose and cut farms 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.
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.

Should I add something to my Christmas Tree's water?

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.

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.

Safer Holidays at Home

The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, lots of entertaining, and an increased risk of fire. In recent years, nearly 600 fires per year have been started by ignition of Christmas trees in the US. (510 in homes), causing an average of 33 deaths (all in homes), 112 injuries, and $21 million in direct property damage per year. Decorating with candles can also be a fire hazard. An annual average of 6,700 home fires are caused by candles every year, with 87 associated deaths and 587 injuries. Nearly $59 million in property damage results from candle fires every year. Follow these fire prevention tips from the NFPA to help keep your family safer during the holidays:

Holiday Lighting - Take care when burning candles. Be sure candles are placed in sturdy, non-combustible holders, and are kept well away from decorations and other combustible materials. Check candles frequently to make sure they don't burn down too far or drip hot wax. Don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles, and always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, up high, out of the reach of children (preferably stored in a locked cabinet). Don't display lighted candles in windows or near exits in case you need these to escape. Under no circumstances is it safe to use candles to decorate Christmas trees! Keep flashlights and fresh batteries on hand to use for lighting in the event of a power outage.

Holiday Entertaining - Use caution with holiday decorations and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-retardant or non-combustible materials. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S., so "stand by your pan!" If there are smokers around your home, provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder and cause a trash fire, so completely douse cugarette butts with water before discarding or flush them down the toilet. After a party, always check inside and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering. If you have children in your home, keep matches and lighters up high, out of their sight and reach (preferably in a locked cabinet). Ask visitors who are smokers to keep their smoking materials with them when they are visiting in your home.

Christmas Trees - Choose a fresh Christmas tree, and put it in a stand designed not to tip over. Place the tree well away from heat sources and exits, and water it constantly. If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant. When decorating with lights, be sure to purchase only those that bear the mark of a testing laboratory. Replace any frayed or damaged cords. For outside decorations, use only those lights labeled for outdoor use. Bring outdoor lights inside following the holidays so they are not damaged by extended exposure to harsh weather conditions. Always unplug all lights before leaving home or going to sleep and don't overload electrical outlets. Use only battery-operated lights if you have a metal Christmas tree, or decorate without lighting.

1998, NFPA, National Fire Protection Association







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