The Christmas tree is the heart of Christmas. The iconic symbol of glad tidings that warms the heart and spreads happiness to all. There are no substitutes for a real fir tree – the whole imagery of celebrating life in the depths of winter doesn’t seem to work in plastic, and the wonderful scent of pine just has to be the real thing!
The price of Christmas trees has crept up and up along with everything else, but when you consider the pleasure it brings us – and that it only really amounts to one meal out – then it seems very good value for money. The other issue to consider is whether it is a good thing for the environment, if you take your tree for recycling it is made into mulch for the local parks and gardens, and the growing of Christmas trees provides excellent seasonal business for rural areas.
When it comes to decorating a tree, it is of course a matter of personal taste. It depends on lots of things; the style of your house, space, budget and personal preference. When I decorated my first proper tree, we had only just moved in, and didn’t have any decorations at all. So, I baked a load of salt dough plaited wreaths and decorated them with red ribbon, then I went to a charity shop and got as many fake pearls as I could afford, and that was it.. pearls and pastry! But effective all the same! I still have one of the salt dough wreaths that has survived over 20 years, it comes out every year, and marks our first Christmas together.
For many years we went to a working wood called Wilderness Wood, a wonderful place to visit for families if you are local to the Sussex area! Every year we would go and choose our tree whilst it was still growing in the field, and then when we were ready to take it home, we would go back, chop it down ourselves and bring it home. One year we were delighted to find a real bird’s next inside the tree, which is now (5 years later!) still one of our most prized Christmas tree decorations which comes year after year!
Over the years, it’s a lovely idea to collect special decorations that the children have made, or that remind you of a place or a person, and before you know it, you have a tree that tells the story of your family and all the Christmases shared together.
So here are my 10 top tips on how to choose, and dress the perfect Christmas tree.
1. When you choose your tree, make sure you see it out of the netting (even if you have to make yourself a bit unpopular!) you need to look for one that is a nice regular shape, which isn’t too sparse around the top and is nice and full at the bottom. It’s really worth cutting a bit off the bottom if you can, as a fresh cut makes the tree take up more water.
2. Position the tree away from direct heat or it will look sad before Christmas, and make sure you can top up the water frequently, as it really helps it last.
3. For a classic tree, stick to white lights, coloured or flashing ones can go elsewhere around the house.
4. Put the lights on first, turn them on, and step back – to check that they are evenly spaced.
5. Start with the largest decorations, and again try to position them evenly, to get a balanced look.
6. Keep tinsel down to a minimum, it looks better around the bottom branches, but don’t overdo it.
7. Drape strings of beads between the branches, for a delicate traditional look.
8. Consider making some decorations out of junk jewellery, some of my favourites are recycled necklaces.
9. Finish of the trimming with ribbon bows on the tips of the branches, step back to check they look evenly spaced.
10. If you can get hold of the old style metal lametta (very thin strands of gold metal), it finishes it off perfectly – transforming your tree into something quite magical. I’ve used the same packet year after year, and carefully store it wrapped in tissue, but I’ve recently got some more online as it’s only made in Germany.
What are your top tree decorating tips? Share below!
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