After years of fake trees, Americans are turning back to live Christmas trees once again, which is good news both for tree farmers and for those of us who simply can’t live without the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree filling the house.
Live trees aren’t all rainbows and kittens, however. Live trees do have a dangerous side compared to their fake counterparts. But as with many dangers we face around the home, being cautious and careful can keep everyone safe…and that applies to Christmas trees too.
Below are six tips for ensuring your live Christmas tree is a delight, not a danger, this holiday season, by decreasing the chances it will be the cause of a house fire or a fall.
Tip 1: Choose your tree
The first step in Christmas tree safety is choosing a fresh tree. I live in a rural area where Christmas tree farms are common. You should know, the farmers start harvesting these trees well before Thanksgiving! (Did you know they use helicopters to lift the trees out to the trucks? Around our place, Christmas sounds like helicopters.) Since you can’t know when a tree was cut down unless you do it yourself, check for freshness to ensure you’ll have a tree that’s less likely to dry out as Christmas approaches.
Tip 2: Prep your tree
The second most important thing you can do is to prep your tree for soaking up water right away. Cut off the bottom of the trunk to expose new wood (about ½ inch), and set the tree up in water as soon as you get home. Don’t wait until you’re ready to set it up in the house!
Tip 3: Keep your Christmas tree watered
Keep it watered. Keep it watered. Keep it watered. Did I mention how important it is to keep it watered? It’s easy to forget during such a busy time of the year, so consider putting reminders in your phone or leaving post-it notes on the kitchen counter. And remember, once it starts to dry out, you can’t reverse the process, and you risk the trunk no longer being able to absorb water. Think of flowers in a vase: If the water in the vase dries out and subsequently the flowers, there’s nothing you can do to bring the freshness back to those flowers. Also remember that your tree will absorb a lot of water initially and less as the days go by, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still absorbing water. Continue to keep the container filled. (I’ve also noticed that when the weather is colder outside and our house is being kept warmer inside, the water seems to evaporate faster too, so watch for that!)
Tip 4: Choose a safe location
This might seem like common sense, but it’s worth the reminder: Choose a location for your tree that’s far from any heat sources like fireplaces, woodstoves and heaters. But also choose a location that’s safe for the tree, meaning a place where it’s not likely to get knocked into or down. That can be hard in a small living room (like mine!), so that might mean you get a smaller (yet safer) tree. Also avoid putting your tree in a location that means stringing extension cords across the floor and creating a tripping hazard!
Tip 5: Choose the right lights
Are you old enough to remember those big huge bulbs that made up our Christmas tree lights back in the 1970s? Those lights got hot! If you still have those vintage light strings around, you might want to leave them in storage and opt for newer lights that give out less heat. Firefighters also recommend LED lights for the same reason. Also consider using a surge protector rather than plugging lights directly into the wall outlet, especially if you have several strings to plug in.
Tip 6: Turn off the lights
OK, I’ll admit it: I want to leave the Christmas tree lights on all of the time. I want to wake up to them in the morning and come home to them in the evening. But that’s not safe. It’s better to turn off lights when you’re not home or maybe put them on a timer so they’ll turn on to greet you at the end of the day, without having to leave them on all day.
The Christmas and Hanukah seasons can be busy and stressful times. But think how stressed you’ll be if your tree catches fire or falls over? It’s worth investing the time to find a fresh tree to begin with, put it in a safe place, and keep it watered rather than have a disaster. These six tips should help.