Once you've chosen the perfect Christmas tree and brought it home, the next step is getting it to its designated spot in the house. A few preparatory measures can make this sometimes daunting job easier: To keep needles from dropping everywhere, wrap the tree in an old sheet as you carry it through the house; and avoid placing the tree near a source of heat or ventilation (which causes the needles to fall off and poses a fire hazard).
1. If you don't put up the tree right away, wrap the stump in a damp towel and leave it in a cool, but not freezing, place.
2. Before you bring in the tree, make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk to remove any dried sap. Get it into a stand right away, and water.
3. A stand with four spouts is ideal because the stand can adjust to fit any tree.
4. Using a plastic tree bag will make cleanup easier: Just pull the bag up over the tree to carry it outside after the holidays.
5. While the tree is displayed, hide the tree bag with a tree skirt.
6. The tree and stand can be placed in a metal basin or a terra-cotta pot -- just make sure the resulting setup isn't top-heavy.
Freshly cut trees absorb as much as a gallon of water a day. Check the stand daily, and make sure the bottom of the trunk is always immersed. Before decorating the tree, place a sheet on the floor to catch needles. Put up lights and garlands first, ornaments last.
By individually wrapping branches with strands of lights, you can minimize exposed cords. For a 6-foot tree, you'll need about six strands with 100 lights each. Wear protective gloves and a long-sleeved shirt as you work -- the needles can be sharp.
Run an extension cord from an electrical outlet to the tree. Plug in the first strand of lights, and run it to the top of the tree. Wind the strand tightly around the topmost shoot and down to the nearest branch; then wrap the lights back around the same branch. Start another branch the same way, near the same level. Continue with this method, working your way down and around the tree, plugging in additional strands of lights as necessary.
Don't forget to unplug the lights when you go to bed each night.