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Tips for selecting the perfect Christmas tree and the real vs. fake debate

There is nothing quite as iconic at this time of year as the Christmas tree. As the focal point of the celebration, we all take great care in decorating our trees to create the showstopper that will fill our homes with Christmas cheer, however, like any project, the best results come with having a good foundation.

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Roberto Caruso for Chatelaine

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Roberto Caruso for Chatelaine

There is nothing quite as iconic at this time of year as the Christmas tree. As the focal point of the celebration, we all take great care in decorating our trees to create the showstopper that will fill our homes with Christmas cheer, however, like any project, the best results come with having a good foundation. Selecting the perfect tree will help guarantee outstanding results. Here are a few tips to help you through the process:

1. Before you even leave the house, figure out where you’d like to place the tree. Try to avoid spaces that are too close to heat sources such as a vent, radiator or fireplace, and out of heavy traffic areas where it could easily be bumped or dishevelled.

2. Once you’ve found the perfect spot – measure both the floor area and ceiling height so you’ll know exactly which tree will be the perfect fit. While you have your measuring tape out, you may want to measure your tree topper, if you’re using one, to avoid any last minute tree chopping. If you are using a tree stand you already own – double check it to see if it has an weight or diameter restrictions – a toppling tree is never a good thing.

3. Pack your measuring tape, some heavy gloves, an old blanket or some cardboard (to protect your car from sap and pine needles) and some strong twine or rope (in case you need to strap the tree to the roof of your car).

4. Once you get there, take a look around at the different types of trees (White Spruce, Douglas Fir etc) each type will have a unique look and scent.

5. The earlier you put your tree up, or the longer you leave it up, the fresher it will need to be. To test the freshness of your free, run an enclosed hand over a few branches – the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches a bit, they should be pliable not brittle. If they are the tree is already too dry.

6. After the tree is at home and unwrapped, trim the base one extra inch before putting it into your tree stand.

7. Your tree is alive and likely very thirsty. Once the tree is up (and before decorating), fill the reservoir of your stand with lukewarm water. Contrary to many old wives tales, it is not necessary to use sugar, ginger ale, aspirin, or any other fancy concoctions, plain water is all you need. These other mixes can eventually develop a film which will prevent the tree from being able to absorb water.

8. Check the water level in your stand regularly and re-fill as needed to ensure the tree stays fresh and hydrated. To keep it extra fresh, turn the temperature down a few degrees in the room where the tree is, and ensure your tree is kept away from any heat sources.

9. Now that you have the perfect tree, check out some of these unexpected decorating ideas to create a look that’s as unique and fun as you are.

Some food for thought:

While many debate real vs. artificial trees, consider this – buying a real tree supports local farmers (yes, contrary to what many believe, Christmas trees are grown in farms, not harvested from forests), and have a lower carbon footprint than artificial trees, as they are generally locally or at least regionally produced vs. artificial trees which are overwhelmingly shipped in from China.  A real tree will have completely decomposed into the natural environment within two years, as opposed to artificial ones which will not break down and remain in landfills for decades. For the greenest option – consider a potted tree which can be taken outdoors and planted after the end of the season. I have a family member who does this each year and has now created a lovely little forest at the side of their property.