After you have chosen the perfect Christmas tree, the next step is carrying it home and setting it up correctly.
Martha uses a canvas tarp to aid them in getting the large balsam fir tree inside the house. Wrapped inside the canvas, the tree is easier to handle, and it can't drop its needles on the way in. (It's important to note that a fresh tree shouldn't drop many needles, anyway -- always test a tree before you buy it by pulling gently on a branch to see if a lot of needles come off in your hand. If they do, it isn't fresh.) Once inside, Martha unwraps the tree, and uses a saw to cut about an inch off the bottom of the trunk. Making a fresh cut before placing the tree in its stand enables the tree to absorb water. A couple of deep, crisscross cuts in the base will also help. After the cuts are made, Martha lifts the tree, still tied in twine, into its stand.
Martha uses a sturdy metal stand with pads on the bottoms of the legs to prevent scratches on the floor. She has many beautiful antique tree stands, which are lovely to collect and are perfect for artificial trees, but for a real tree, a basic, sturdy stand that holds plenty of water is the best choice.
Be sure the tree is upright and the stand is tightened around the base of the trunk before you untie the branches. It's best to do this with someone else, so one person can step back and check that the tree is perfectly upright. After the tree is steady, untie the branches, and allow them a few minutes to fall into place. Then make any final adjustments that are necessary, and fill the container with water. A Christmas tree should be watered every day; check frequently to see that the container isn't getting dry.
After the tree is in place, Martha starts attaching the lights. Her first step is to attach a green extension cord, with outlets evenly spaced down its length, to the trunk of the tree. She uses green twist ties to attach the cord to the tree, starting at the top and running the cord vertically down the tree trunk. After testing each string of lights to see that no bulb is burned out, she then attaches the lights to the tree, carefully winding the strings around a single branch at a time, plugging them into the outlets spaced at intervals on the tree trunk.
We used a Woodland tree stand from L.L. Bean; phone: 800-341-4341. Christmas items and antiques were provided by the Historical Christmas Barn, Wilton, CT 06897; phone: 203-761-8777. The antique Christmas stands and other antiques were from Main Street Cellar, 120 Main Street, New Canaan, CT 06840; phone: 203-966-8348.