(Family Features) The holidays are typically filled with warm, happy memories created by a plethora of beautiful sights and wonderful smells. After all, many equate the season with the scents of freshly baked cookies, crackling fires, mugs of hot cocoa and newly cut pine trees filling the house.
Actually, the fragrance of a fresh pine tree is no longer a holiday memory for many Americans. Of the nearly 94 million United States homes that displayed a Christmas tree last year, only 15% had real trees, according to the 10th annual Christmas tree survey conducted by Nielsen on behalf of the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA). The rest were artificial, a trend that has increased almost annually.
However, if you choose to display a live tree this year, consider these tips to help select and care for the perfect fresh tree:
- Look for a freshly cut holiday tree that doesn’t have broken branches, insects or dirt.
- Grab a branch near the tree’s trunk with your thumb and forefinger. Gently slide them along the branch until you reach the tip. None of the needles should fall off and both the needles and branch should feel soft and pliable.
- Keep a sharp handsaw at home to cut an inch or two off the bottom of the trunk before placing it in your stand.
- When selecting a spot to display your fresh tree, make sure there are no fire hazards nearby. Also ensure it can be watered easily without damaging carpeting or hardwood floors.
On the other hand, these tips can help you shop for an artificial tree:
- An artificial tree is an investment. According to the ACTA, the average cost of an artificial tree is $104 (compared to $78 for live trees), though artificial trees last an average of 10 years with some high-quality trees lasting up to 20 years.
- The easiest trees to set up have hinged branches. They should also include strong stands with rubber feet to protect carpet or hardwood floors.
- When examining an artificial tree, look for a quality tree with lots of branch “tips.” A tree with lots of tips provides a fuller, more natural look and plenty of places to hang ornaments.
Whether considering a real or artificial tree, make sure to select an appropriate size. Measure the height of your ceiling then subtract the number of inches for your tree stand and any ornamental topper to determine how tall of a tree you can display.
Also remember to use only UL-approved lights to decorate your tree and keep it away from fireplaces, heat vents or space heaters. Breakable ornaments or those that look like candy or other treats should be hung high enough that small children or pets can’t reach them.
Find more tips for selecting and decorating Christmas trees at eLivingtoday.com.
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