As I leisurely drive down the streets of my neighborhood, I already notice bright, colorful holiday displays peeking from half-drawn curtains in the large picture windows of several homes. I can only imagine the hustle and bustle of busy holiday cheer, excitement and preparations taking place inside - activity I assume began before Thanksgiving.
For me, however, now is about that time to bring home the star of this year's holiday season. Our home seems so empty without it; I can't help but compare it to our neighbors' next door. I anticipate the evening I drive home to see an illuminated tree through the window pane of our living room.
Our Christmas tree is December's source of decoration, festivity and big, bright lights - my favorite part. I just love the way the lights sparkle from the depths of the branches and reflect in the shiny ornaments I use to adorn the entirety of the tree.
But before I can simply take a seat on the sofa and enjoy the tree's beauty and brightness, I plan ahead to keep my tree healthy through the season. Just like I created a Christmas shopping list before the Black Friday deals began, I make a Christmas tree maintenance list before I start stringing the lights.
Christmas Tree Care Checklist
- If you're looking for a real Christmas tree this season, search the local tree farm for fresh, strong and healthy trees. Fraser firs retain their soft needles indoors longer than other trees. But if you're concerned about the weight of your Christmas lights and ornaments hurting your tree, a blue spruce tree might be a good fit for your home. They have firmer branches than other popular Christmas tree varieties - but wear leather gloves to protect your hands from the prickly needles.
- When you return home from the tree farm, place the tree trunk in a bucket of water in a cool location, out of direct sunlight, where the water does not freeze (such as a garage).
- Recut the base of the trunk before placing it indoors in the tree stand. Once you secure your tree in your home, make sure the tree stays hydrated to prevent heat from the light bulbs from drying out the needles. Keep water in the tree stand at all times.
- Before you string the lights on your tree, make sure the bulbs work and check the distance from the tree to wall outlets to make sure you can plug in the lights.
- Get in the spirit! Stringing Christmas lights is a team effort, so turn up the holiday tunes, hang on tight to the ladder and shine some light on your tree!
- Carefully make your way around the tree to evenly distribute the lights throughout the branches.
- Avoid stringing lights on any weak or failing branches you encounter.
- Be gentle as you string the lights - you don't want to knock off too many needles from the branches.
- Once the tree is fully decorated, remember to unplug the lights at night and when you leave the house.
Until our Christmas tree is up, adorned and illuminated this weekend, I'll focus on the picture-perfect scene I've had on my mind for weeks now - ever since Christmas decorations began popping up throughout the neighborhood. I see myself slumped down into my favorite living room chair with a mug of hot chocolate in one hand and a book in the other, as the fire crackles and sends plumes of smoke up the chimney.
The ceiling lights are dim but in the corner of my eye I've got a constant glimpse of my holiday sunshine, my North Star - my Christmas tree, embraced with sparkling strands of light from head to toe.
DID YOU KNOW? This week marks Rockefeller Center's 80th Christmas Tree Lighting, which featured a tree that survived the wrath of Superstorm Sandy to get there. And next week, Washington, D.C., will witness the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting - stay tuned for more details!