How to Trim a Christmas Tree

Opinions abound on how to trim a Christmas tree properly. Everyone has their own decorating style and unique family traditions. But even in keeping with those traditions, there are certain guidelines to follow if you'd like your tree to have a neat and professionally decorated look.

Theme
You may want to consider a decorating theme for your tree. Do you want a Victorian look with bows and lace? Or perhaps a country look, with handmade ornaments and strings of popcorn and cranberries? Maybe a mid-century modern aluminum tree with pink and blue balls is more your style. Whatever your personal preferences, your tree will have a more cohesive, professional look if you pick one theme or style and stick with it.

Lights
Once your tree is up, the first part of trimming it is to put on the lights. There are many options available for tree lighting, but not all of them belong in the house. Web lights that simply drape over the tree may be great for the bushes outdoors, but they look too even on an indoor tree, and they make it hard to hang ornaments.

Strands of small white lights are the most popular, but colored lights can give a festive look too. Try to choose lights that will fit the style of your tree. White lights are best for Victorian and country themes. Colored lights work well with a variety of themes, or you can use a single color, such as blue or green, to enhance a tree with a modern feel.

Whether you're using fiber optic lights, LED lights or traditional strands of lights, the method of decorating is the same. Start at the base of the tree, and weave the lights in and out of the branches, following the shape of the tree. Don't hang lights like garland, or you'll lose the shape of the branches.

Keep working your way up to the top of the tree. As you place the lights, remember that you don't need them out to the tips of the branches; that's where the ornaments will go. It's good to have the lights run in deep toward the trunk, as this will make the tree look fuller.

If you're planning on using a combination of bubble lights or larger C9 and C4 lights with miniature lights, put the miniature lights on first. Keep them a little further back from the tips of the branches, then use the larger lights at the edges of the branches.

Garlands
The next step in decorating your tree is to add garlands, if you are using them. You are not limited to the tinsel garlands we all remember from childhood. You can use ribbon, strings of beads or old fashioned popcorn and cranberry strings.

Starting at the top of your tree, drape the garlands around your tree, spiraling downward until you reach the bottom. Step back and check your work every now and then, to be sure that your garlands are evenly spaced.

Make sure that garlands drape away from the tips of the major branches. This makes a nice framing element for the ornaments. Alternately, you can let garland or ribbon hang vertically from the top of the tree to the base. If you have a particularly full tree or an artificial tree, this is a great way to break it into sections for easier ornament hanging.

Ornaments
When placing the ornaments on your tree, start with any sets of ornaments you are using, and then fill in with single ornaments. Begin hanging the ornaments evenly over the tree, stepping back now and then to make sure they are attractively spaced. As a general rule of thumb, larger ornaments should be placed near the bottom of the tree, while smaller ones should go near the top.

If you need to stand on a ladder or a chair to reach the top branches, be sure to put the ornaments on the top of the tree first. That way you won't be gingerly working your way around ornaments at the bottom. In this case, you may also want to break tradition and put the tree topper on before you're finished.

The Finishing Touches
Once you are satisfied with the placement of your ornaments, it's time to add the finishing touches, including the tree topper. Traditional stars are always popular, but you can also choose an angel, a big bow or a glass topper. Make sure the topper you choose fits the overall theme of your tree.

Finally, don't forget the tree skirt. Wrapping a skirt around the base of your tree gives it a finished look. It also collects stray needles and keeps pets from turning the tree stand into a water bowl.

Whether you choose a fresh Christmas tree or an artificial one, you can have a beautifully decorated tree that will leave your guests wondering if you hired a professional decorator. Don't forget to make it fun by having your family or your friends pitch in. Trimming a tree together is one of the great joys of the Christmas season/

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