Welcome to our IDEAS & ADVICE pages
We might as well start with the most interesting decoration: the tree! A good Christmas tree is an absolute essential; without it, Christmas would just feel wrong. So, how should you go about picking up setting up that perfect Christmas tree first time round?
Check out the needles
One way to tell if a tree has just been cut is to take a look at its needles. Essentially, if they’re bright and full, that’s a very good sign! If the tree has dull leaves, leave it there. Another good way to judge the health of a tree is to give it a slight shake. If the needles start falling off, then that’s definitely a sign that it’s on the way out.
Consider a non-drop fir
A cheaper Christmas tree will definitely do the job, but there’s no denying that if you have a busy family Christmas your rug might end up looking rather green by the end of the festive period. If you want, you can pay 20 per cent or so more for a non-drop fir. They aren’t completely non-drop, but you will definitely notice a substantial difference.
Is an artificial tree worth looking at?
This is definitely a divisive issue, with many people seeing artificial trees as a mild form of blasphemy. That may be, but if you want your tree to be a lot (read; a lot) easier to manage and to last for a few years rather than just one, they’re definitely worth consideration.
Tips on actually getting the tree up
If you’ve gone for the real deal, then bear these things in mind. Trust us, they’ll help!
Make a fresh cut an inch or so into the bottom of the trunk. This will help remove any dry sap and keep the tree fresh. Only do this right before the tree actually goes up!
Use a strong stand. There are some things in life that aren’t worth cheapening out on, and Christmas tree stands are one of them. Get a good, strong stand with a sprout on all four sides, and your tree will go nowher Use plastic bags. If you want to make the clean-up easier, keep plastic bags at the base of the tree. Don’t forget to water it. Freshly cut trees can suck up loads of water. Check the stand daily, and make sure the bottom of the trunk is always immersed.
Hit the lights!
Another key part of decorating for Christmas is ensuring that the lights – whether they’re inside or outside – look great, but are also safe. As well as Christmas being a time of love and hope, it’s also a time of children and pets running around like nutcases, so be safe!
Don’t over-reach; If you’re hanging up in the top corners of the room, then make sure you’ve got a solid base. Always use a proper stepladder, and make sure there’s someone around to hold it for you! Putting up Christmas lights is definitely a two person job, so make sure the family helps out.
Keep leads taped up; It’s virtually impossible to completely eliminate leads and extension cables if you’ve got a decent light display planned. However, make sure that wherever possible, you keep leads trailed behind things. Behind the TV, behind the sofa, behind the bookcase: whatever suits your room best. Whatever you do, don’t leave the leads trailing across the floor: people will trip up!
The lights on the tree
Decorating the Christmas tree with lights is a skill in itself. There are a number of things to bear in mind here:
Decorate the tree in stages. It’s a good idea to thing of the three as being in three sections (vertically) and to string the lights through each section one at a time. This means that the light string is never stretched too much, and there’s less risk of the lead breaking.
Plug the lights in before you start winding. It’s good to know in advance exactly which strands or areas are broken (if any). Periodically test the lights as you’re stringing them. Every couple of minutes should be sufficient: it’ll help you see if there are any darker areas that you’ve missed!
Adding everything else
Once the lights are on the tree, it’s time to start adding all the other awesome things that make a Christmas tree such a brilliant focal point.
Pick a colour scheme - in advance! If you want your Christmas tree to look stylish, it’s a very good idea to work out what colour scheme you want to go for before you start setting up. Otherwise, any younger members of the family might start sticking the baubles on willy-nilly; and you’ll end up with a chaotic-looking tree. Pick a theme. If you want to, you can also pick a theme. For instance, you can pick snowflakes: it’s possible to get baubles and other decorations that will blend in. Other themes include angels and even the big man himself: Father Christmas. Make sure you keep things even. A good way to make sure this happens is to add a side at a time of each item. So one bauble on each side, followed by some tinsel on each side, then the same with the next colour. If you keep things fairly well ordered through the process, a nice ordered tree is what you’ll end up with!
Don’t forget to have a topper. Every Christmas tree has to have a good topper. For some people, it’s a star. For others, it’s an angel. Some people like a nice snowflake. Just don’t forget to include it!