Is there anything more ubiquitous at Christmas time than the Christmas tree?

I love it. For me, the Christmas season hasn’t really begun until I’ve picked out my tree and put it up it in our family room. I love the smell it brings into our home and the lovely decorations in which my beautiful wife dresses it up every year. I love the dim Christmas lights twinkling in the dark, quiet house on Christmas Eve, and I love watching my grandchildren gleefully tear the wrapping off of their gifts in front of the tree on Christmas morning. And over the last couple of years, since we’ve moved into our new house, I’ve become very intentional about the ritual of getting a tree, a ceremony which I would love to share with you now.

If you don’t know me, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, especially where a Christmas tree is concerned. I’ll have none of this last-minute tree shopping and settling for the last dinky Douglas Fir that the hardware store has in its parking lot. No way – I go for the biggest tree I can get! Which brings me to my first tip:

Measure your space!

Nothing is worse than coming home with a tree that doesn’t fill out the corner, or that you need to cut down on your own to get to fit inside. Clear the space for your tree before you go out to buy it – that way, when you bring it home, you don’t have to scramble to get your ducks in a row.

Really think about where you are going to get your tree.

Sure, you’ll probably get a decent deal in the Walmart parking lot, but consider doing a little bit of research and see if anybody in your town is selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser. The Boy Scouts of America, local churches, and all sorts of other charities and nonprofits sell trees to raise money – buying a tree from one of these is a great way to pour back into the community.

Now I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a tree snob. I’ll always go for the Balsam Fir when I can get it – you just can’t beat the fragrance off of a Balsam, and no tree is as resilient in my opinion. But whatever species you decide on, make sure it’s in good health before you buy! Run a couple of branches through your hands to make sure the needles don’t pull off. Give it a hearty shake for good measure. Remember, this needs to last you several weeks, and there is little more disappointing than a brown tree on Christmas Day!

Alright! So you’ve got your tree, you’re ready to bring it inside.

Another Quick Tip

If you have the tools, cut about a quarter inch off the base of the trunk (especially do this if you got the tree off a lot!). Cut wood tends to seal off as it dries out, making it difficult for the tree to drink water, so cutting it again gives it a fresh stem from which to drink.

Also, I’ve been surprised by how often I see people make this mistake: When you’re finally bringing the tree inside, ALWAYS go through doors with the base first. The branches bend upwards, so if you lead with the top of the tree instead, you’ll create a big mess and likely damage the tree.

All that’s left is to put the tree up.

Make sure to use a base with a watering reservoir, being mindful to keep it filled daily (Christmas tree’s drink a lot!). No need to add anything to the water. I’ve never been much of a decorating type, but I still love to be present while my wife, kids and grandkids decorate. The ritual is, after all, about the time we share together.

Skip Jankoski

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