A big thanks to the Christmas Tree Promotion Board for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
Every year, it happens. I turn into a Dickens-reciting, carol-singing, cookie-baking, tree-sniffing, cocoa-chugging lunatic, and if any of that is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
And now with this cheerful addition in our dining room, I’ve got it baaaaad, y’all.
If it were up to Robert, we’d have a real Christmas tree in every single room in our house, and I certainly can’t argue. The Griswolds would have nothing on us if there were more hours in the day to hang twinkle lights.
Ever since we visited a Christmas tree farm in the mountains before Thanksgiving, Olivia asked when the trees would come out every single day as we passed our local farmer’s market on the way to preschool.
And then this happened…
… along with the great debate over the “perfect” one. (To Olivia, they were all perfect and she asked if we could just get all of them. Sure, let me go grab our Mack truck, kiddo.)
I love knowing that this annual adventure of ours creates lasting memories for our family, goes to help our community and local farmers, and that once the season is over, the tree is still biodegradable and recyclable, so they won’t end up in a landfill somewhere.
Robert and I both picked our favorites, and she was the tie-breaker. Being the Three Musketeers has its benefits. 😉
So now this Victorian-inspired decorated beauty greets us every day and makes our whole house smell amaaaaazing in all its piney gloriousness.
Decorating a real tree is a bit different than decorating an artificial one in our experience though, so I thought I’d share our process and some tips for making it last longer.
11 Steps for Decorating and Caring for a Real Christmas Tree:
Step 1: Decide on a tree stand first.
The tree stand matters. Big time. The one that seems to be just about fail-proof is this one. Make sure you get a stand that works for the height of your tree though or else it could be a tip-hazard and a giant, sappy mess.
Step 2: Prep the trunk and trim.
Cut about an inch off of the bottom of the tree trunk and make sure you cut it perfectly straight so the tree will stand upright. If a trunk is out of water for too long, the sap hardens at the end and won’t soak up water in your tree stand, so a fresh cut solves that problem.
Use a hand saw or chain saw to cut any extra limbs off of the bottom too that might interfere with your tree stand. Then, place it in your tree stand. Usually, merchants will do the trimming for you at tree lots and farms.
Step 3: Spray plant protector on branches.
There’s this plant protector spray called Wilt Pruf that you can apply to your tree branches or to any fresh garland or fresh wreaths to reduce moisture loss, so they won’t dry out as quickly. Just make sure to spritz it on at room temperature, not in freezing conditions.
Step 4: Pick the best side to showcase.
(Is this a total Captain Obvious step? Sorry.) There’s usually that one bad side with holes and a few rough looking spots, so turn the bad side to face a corner or wall in the room.
If you’re using a basket or a bucket, put your tree, with the tree stand, in it at this point too before starting to decorate. If you’re using a tree skirt though, wait until you’ve finished decorating so you don’t get fallen needles on it.
Step 5: Hang the lights.
Choose what lights you want to have on it first.
Candle style– Go the antique route with these candle style ones.
Incandescent lights– These come in all sizes and colors, and they give off warmth that release oils in the tree to release that pine smell.
LED lights– A newer style of tree lights that stay cool, so they are completely fireproof.
Bubble lights– If you like a retro style look, these lights are large, colorful, and resemble the look of lava lamps.
Globe lights– These lights are round and larger than most lights, with a softer glow.
Or make it have extra glow by mixing two types of lights.
Start loosely wrapping your strand of lights beginning at the top of the tree and working your way down. Push some lights closer to the trunk and pull some out toward the tips of the branches and in between to add depth and extra glow.
We went the simple route this year with just a strand of these antique style candle lights. I love how Victorian they make the tree look with that soft glow.
Step 6: Add garland.
Choose wired ribbon, beads, stranded popcorn and cranberries, cable knit trim, whatever is your style. Drape it with a scallop look, wrap it and nestle it loosely between branches, drape it vertically from the top. Have fun with it. Keep your garland spaced as evenly as you can.
We went Victorian with ours again with just a simple scallop using these gold wood beads. Something about that scallop look reminds me of a pretty wedding cake.
Step 7: Add Twigs, Berries, and/or Floral Picks
I love adding icy twigs for extra texture, berry branches for more color, or artificial flower stems for filling in holes. Space them out throughout the tree, and add a few more sprigs at the top to emphasize your tree topper. I stuck with just a few of these metallic magnolias this year.
Step 8: Hang Ornaments.
Start with the larger ornaments and space them out all over the tree. Cover holes between branches with these too.
Fill in with medium/small ornaments, closer to the trunk and out to the end of branches. Evenly space out colors and shapes so you don’t have two or three of the same type clustered together.
Avoid heavy ornaments since real branches are easily weighed down. Shatterproof glass-look balls work the best for me. I love how these faux mercury glass ones look antique but are actually plastic and safe.
Step 9: Add your topper and/or your tree skirt.
I like to use stars or angels that have clips on them instead of those little cones. They tend to sit up straighter that way and don’t fall down.
And if you want a cheaper option for a tree skirt, a pretty throw blanket you already own (or maybe find at the thrift store) works perfectly.
Step 10: Pour tree preservative or a can of Sprite into your tree stand.
That might be a weird one, but I learned this trick from the owner at the farmer’s market when picking out our tree. Pour a can of Sprite into your tree stand along with water once every two weeks to keep your tree fresh. Or some tree lots/farms sell tree preservative to pour in with water.
Step 11: Pet proof it.
If you have a cat, tuck a few orange peels under the tree skirt or in the tree basket since cats don’t like the smell of citrus. If you have a dog who is a little mischievous, hang a couple of jingle bell ornaments on the bottom branches to alert you if their curiosity ever gets the best of them.
Our Christmas Eve dinner is going to be all sparkly and magical this year for sure.
This weekend, Robert, Olivia, and I have one more tree to decorate that will be more of the free-for-all anything-goes tree. I guarantee it’ll be packed with homemade family ornaments and construction paper creations from preschool crafts, and every single one will be clustered at the very bottom where little hands can reach.
And I’ll bet you a million bucks it’ll be the prettiest tree of all.
Right now though, I’m pretty goo-goo-eyed for this one.
If you don’t live near the mountains or a place to cut your own tree, you can always pick them up at tree lots and hardware stores. You can see more info over at itschristmaskeepitreal.com and at Facebook.com/ItsChristmasKeepItReal on why keeping it real this year helps farmers, communities, and ecosystems.
Do you have any real Christmas tree decorating tricks of your own? Or tips for keeping it looking fresh through December? Are you sticking to a decorating style this year or is it full of family treasures? It’s always beautiful, no matter what.
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