Introduction: How to Pick and Decorate a Christmas Tree

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…
How to identify and set up a great Christmas tree.

Step 1: Bring Home a Tree

Go out and find a tree. The best ones are those you cut yourself, as they'll be fresher, healthier, and will smell more strongly. This year I was lazy, so I picked mine up at Home Depot. It's not the same, and I'll do it right next year.

Pick a nice healthy tree. If it's pre-cut, make sure the needles are still tightly affixed. Check the height carefully, as it's easy to accidentally bring home an enormous tree if you're selecting in the wild. Measure your standing reach as a reference, or remember to bring a tape measure. My standing reach is 7.5', roughly the proper height tree for my ceilings. Cut your tree, or pick one from the lot and have the trunk re-cut.

Either way, they'll cover your tree in netting and probably help you put it on your car. Bring ratcheting tie-downs to make sure it stays there.

Step 2: Put Tree in Stand

Carry the tree, still wrapped in its netting, to the spot you plan to set it up. The best tree stands are plastic, with 4 or 8 holding screws and a decent water-holding capacity.

Situate the tree stand on some towels to avoid scratching up the floor, with plastic underneath the towels to catch spills. Cover any vents (more towels!) to catch falling needles. Don't fill the stand with water until the tree is fully set up.

Step 3: Install Tree/stand Complex

Place the still-wrapped tree in the stand, and do a first-pass adjustment of the holding screws. It should be roughly straight at this point.

Step 4: Remove Netting

Cut netting and remove from tree. Some types stick like crazy, and it may help to have a chair or a tall person handy to remove it from the topmost branches.

Step 5: Fluff Tree

Shake your tree vigorously to remove dead needles. Add water to the stand, and let the tree drink for a few hours to overnight. Add more water as necessary. Eventualy the branches will drop down to a more normal position. Now you can do the final screw adjustments, making the tree stand up as straight as it's going to get. Spin the tree to present its best side to the room.

Step 6: Decorate Tree

Add lights and ornaments to taste (or lack thereof.) Be warned that the purple lights sold at Target aren't really purple- they're really hot pink. Don't be fooled.

Start at the top and work your way down. For reference, a tree of this size requires a minimum of 400 lights.

Step 7: Hook Up Music-activated Light Controller

See the this Instructable for directions.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

At this point, you're really done mucking around with the tree. Sweep up all of the needles you've thrown on the ground, and cover the stand and extension cords with a stylin' tree skirt. Make sure to water the tree daily to avoid creating a fire hazard.

Fill space beneath tree with presents.