How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

Whether live or faux, there’s nothing quite as heart warming as a Christmas tree. But decorating your tree is another matter all together. You can’t just put the lights and ornaments on there in any old order. There’s a method to decorating trees. Here are three rules of thumb for making your tannenbaum look truly majestic.

Step 1: Hang the Lights

The first thing you should do (after setting up the tree, of course) is hang the lights. Start at the base of the trunk and work your way up, wrapping lights around every major branch, moving from the trunk to the tip and back. Working this way not only gives you a solid foundation for the rest of your decorating, but also lends your tree look illuminated from the inside out. Truly magical.

Step 2: Add Garlands

The trick here is to avoid the “sausage effect” (branches bulging between tightly cinched garlands). To do that, start at the top of the tree and slowly increase the amount of garland between each wave as you work your way down the branches. You should only use about two strands of garland for every vertical foot of tree.

Step 3: Hang the Ornaments

If you have favorite ornaments, you should hang them first and in prime positions. After that, hang the larger ornaments. Be sure to space them evenly around the tree. Then add the medium sized ornaments to fill in the gaps. Specialty items such as candy canes, icicles and clip-on ornaments should be hung last.

Now that you have a good grasp of how to trim your tree, get to it. You’ll be envy of the neighborhood.

Alternatives to Christmas Trees

Christmas trees. They smell good and look great, but they aren’t necessarily for everyone. For some, the daily ritual of watering the tree and cleaning up all the fallen pine needles is just too much of a hassle, while medical issues such as severe allergies can make live Christmas trees a health hazard. Whatever your reason, we have six ideas for alternatives to Christmas trees that are sure to keep your holidays feeling as festive as ever.

Wooden Trees

These tend to be smaller, and come in a handsome wood color. You can easily hang ornaments on them, paint on scenes, or even paint the tree itself green. It’s unique and classy.

Spiral Rope Light Trees

Decidedly minimalistic, these trees are great for indoors or out. And they’re growing popularity means you can find them pretty much anywhere.

Sequin Mini Trees

Like the wooden tree, these are small and don’t offer much space for presents, but they are certainly something to behold. The subtle shimmer from the sequins will fill any room with gorgeously festive light.

Cardboard Trees

Made from recycled cardboard, these trees are as eco-friendly as they are fun. And the decorative possibilities are as wide open as your imagination.

Ladder Christmas Trees

Now here’s a tree that’s truly unique. Just take a tall, narrow wooden ladder and wrap it with Christmas lights. The shape resembles a real Christmas tree and it’ll make a great conversation piece for all your holiday gatherings.

Aluminum Christmas Trees

Beloved in the 1950s for its futuristic feel, the aluminum Christmas tree lends that retro-chic look to your holiday decorations. And it looks pretty nice to boot.

Tips for Storing Your Holiday Ornaments

The holidays are over, and now you’re faced with the task of taking down your ornaments and storing them until it’s time to get them out again next year. Not only that, but you have to store all the wonderful new ornaments that were given to you as gifts this year. But don’t fret. Here are our top three tips for safely storing your holiday ornaments.

Preparation

Even if you have an immaculately clean home, and your ornaments weren’t out for that long, they still collected dust. Carefully cleaning and dusting each ornament before you put it away will help protect delicate finishes and reduce the risk of scratches. Be sure to always use a soft, lint-free cloth. You can also use cotton swabs for getting in the hard to reach places. For tougher grime, dab a little water on your cloth or swab—just make sure the ornament is completely dry before you put it away.

Choose the Right Container

Different ornaments require different containers. One size does not fit all. If you’re trying to preserve your family’s heirloom ornaments, use an archival storage container. If you have tons of ornaments you want organized in an efficient way, a simple plastic ornament storage box, or an easy canvas chest will do the trick. No matter the container you use, be sure it’s clean and that your entire ornament fits securely inside.

Be Organized

Storing your ornaments isn’t just about putting them away. It’s also about being able to quickly and easily bring them out for the holidays the following year. That’s why it’s such a good idea to be as organized as possible when it comes to storing your ornaments.

If you have more than one tree, always decorate each tree with the same ornaments, pack the ornaments separately and mark them “living room tree,” “den tree,” etc. Writing on each box the type of ornaments it contains will make unpacking and repacking much easier—Santa ornaments, animated ornaments, round ornaments, wood ornaments, etc. You pick the categories.

You may also want to store ornaments by size. For example, put all oversized ornaments in one container, clip-on ornaments in another.

Be sure to also label boxes that contain fragile ornaments. Don’t stack them too high or with heavier boxes on top.

Follow these simple tips, and you’re sure to get years of joyous use out of your holiday ornaments, and be able to keep them organized to boot.

Decorating your house for Christmas

For many, decorating their home for Christmas is a tradition that is anticipated every year. And then you have the Scrooges in the neighborhood who seem to have no interest in decorating at all. Bah humbug. While you can go the traditional route for decorating, here are five decorating tips that will save you time, money and aggravation.

Consider getting an artificial tree – Sure real trees are nice, but consider this: With an artificial tree there are no needles to pick up, no watering to be done and no tree to load in/out of house.

Stick with a tree branch – Cut off a branch (preferably from a tree of you own) with a few arms. Get a roll of cotton and cut into strips. Wrap each branch arm and decorate. Put the finished product in a tree stand or jar and then decorate.

Start a tradition of special ornaments – Add a new ornament every year and keep an inventory in a scrap book with a picture and description. If you have children, have them hand-design their own special ornaments every Christmas.

Safety first – Check that smoke alarms are functioning correctly and install new batteries. Minimize your risk of fire by keeping the Christmas tree away from the fireplace and use low-heat lights when decorating the tree.

Christmas cards from yesteryear – Instead of tossing Christmas cards you receive each year, save them in a small storage tub. Decorate the house with cards from previous Christmases and soon you’ll have a house full of holiday memories.

And here’s a bonus suggestion: When wrapping presents, keep it simple. Recycle gift bags or design your own using a simple lunch bag. Punch two holes in the top of the bag and thread a ribbon through it. Hand stamp the bag with a Christmas stamp from a local craft store. It’s economical and a much more meaningful holiday keepsake.  And whatever you do, don’t wait until the last second to wrap Christmas gifts!

How to care for your Christmas tree

Unless you’re a seasoned Christmas tree owner, chances are you may not be aware of how to care for your freshly-cut tree properly. With a little love and some TLC, you can greatly extend the life of your tree and keep all the annoying needle droppings down to a minimum.

Put your tree in water ASAP –  Once you’ve got your tree home, place it’s trunk in water as soon as possible. Trees can usually still take up water six to eight hours after cutting, but you’ll want to get your tree in water sooner than that.

Putting your tree temporarily into cool storage – Christmas trees can be stored for a few days as long as it’s in a cool environment—as long as the trunk is kept in a bucket of water.

Get expert advice – Where possible, get your Christmas tree from a local farm that can help you determine the correct size stand you should use to display your tree. It’ll help extend the life of the tree plus you’ll be supporting your local business.

Use a traditional reservoir stand – Traditional reservoir stands are the best way to help trees stay fresh and keep needles dropping on your floor to a minimum.

The size of the stand matters – Don’t whittle down the base of the tree just to fit it into a stand. The outside layers of the tree soak up the most water. Stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.

Water temperature – Your Christmas tree doesn’t care if you use cold, warm or hot water.

Check water level daily – The water level should never go below the base of the tree. Christmas tree water monitors can help you ensure you’ve got the right level of water for your tree.

Keep heat sources to a minimum – Christmas trees begin drying out once they’re cut. You can slow down this process by minimizing the tree’s exposure to heat (e.g., fireplace, heating vents, etc.). Low-power lights don’t create too much heat and are the best bet for your tree.

Minimize fire hazards – Keep your tree away from the fireplace. If decorating with lights, check the light string to ensure there are no frayed cords and that bulbs aren’t excessively hot.

Replace batteries in smoke detector – Put fresh batteries in your smoke detector. If you don’t have a smoke detector nearby the tree, consider getting an extra detector. That small investment could help save lives in the case of fire.

Source: christmastree.org

Christmas Around the World

Christmas. It’s the quintessential Christian holiday, not just here in America, but around the world. And with growing numbers of non-Christians celebrating it as enthusiastically as Christians, you could say that Christmas has become a truly global phenomenon. Here’s a look at 10 different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.

Japan – Only 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, but that doesn’t stop them from getting into the Christmas spirit. They buy Christmas trees, flock to the malls to buy presents and, on December 25, get together for large family meals of fried chicken, and sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream.

India – Even in one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, Christmas is a major holiday celebrated by nearly everyone. Festivities begin about a week before December 25, with people buying gifts and hanging decorations. On Christmas Eve, throngs of carollers take to the streets and thoroughfares to fill the air with song.

Netherlands – Christmas begins on the last Saturday of November and culminates on December 5, when St. Nicholas is believed (at least by children) to sail in from Spain with his trusty pal Black Peter. Together, they fill children’s little wooden shoes with gifts. After opening presents, families settle down to luxurious meals of North Sea shrimp; smoked fish (especially salmon and eel); soup; roast or stewed poultry or meat, such as duck, wild boar or venison; and choice seasonal vegetables.

Russia – Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Christmas has become a major holiday in Russia. It’s celebrated on January 7. Many Russians abstain from eating meat, eggs or milk for a few weeks before Christmas. They also fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, priests visit homes and sprinkle water in each room—a custom that’s believed to bring happiness and good fortune.

Croatia – Festivities begin in earnest here on St. Lucy’s Day (December 13), when the mothers or female heads of families plant wheat seeds in shallow water on round plates. The seeds germinate and grow up to eight inches high by December 24 and are tied with red, blue and white ribbons, the colors of the Croatian flag.

Australia – Dazzling festivities and fervor put Australian Christmases on par with cities such as New York, London, Paris and Vancouver. Public celebrations on Christmas Eve include a free Carols by Candlelight concert that brings in 70,000 – 100,000 attendees and nearly two million television viewers. Because of the warm climate, many Australians head out to Bondi Beach or other outdoor locations after opening their presents Christmas morning.

Brazil – Known as dia de festas, Christmas in Brazil is much like it is here in America. Brazilians attend Midnight Mass (Missa do Galo), decorate their homes with Christmas trees, and go caroling and open presents the morning of December 25. A traditional Christmas dinner in Brazil includes turkey, ham, colored rice and fresh fruits and vegetables.

China – Though it’s not legally a holiday, Christmas in China is rapidly gaining popularity, especially as the country becomes more of an economic super power and open to Western traditions. Gift giving is a major part of Christmas in China, as is spending time with loved ones and hanging decorations.

England – Advent marks the beginning of Christmas in the UK. Britons decorate their homes with holly wreaths adorned with candles—three pink, one white and one purple. They also decorate their Christmas trees, and on December 25, Father Christmas (their equivalent of Santa Claus) brings presents for all the good girls and boys.

Africa – Christmas is celebrated far and wide on the African continent on January 7. From Ghana to South Africa, Africa is filled with people caroling, exchanging gifts, attending church and spending time with family and friends. Holiday meals in Africa include roasted goat, rice, okra soup, biscuits, bread, jam and tea.

A Brief History of the Christmas Tree

The exact history of the Christmas tree is somewhat disputed. Many believe it has its roots in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Romans, for example, marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. They knew the solstice meant that farms and orchards would soon be green and fruitful again. To celebrate, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen trees.

The introduction of the evergreen as a Christmas tradition is generally believed to date back to 16th century Germany, when devout Christians started bringing decorated trees into their homes.

And it was Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, who first added candles to the trees. The story goes that as he was walking home one evening he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst the evergreens. To recreate the scene for his family, Martin Luther put an evergreen in the main room of his home and wired its branches with lighted candles.

The arrival of the Christmas tree in America dates back to 1846, when Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. The queen was popular with British subjects and fashion conscious Americans on the East Coast, both of whom soon started bringing Christmas trees into their homes.

By the early 20th century, as ornaments expanded to include electric lights that could glow for days on end, Christmas trees began appearing in town squares and homes across America. And they’ve been a permanent holiday fixture ever since.