Decorating the Christmas tree represents an annual holiday tradition for many families. The tradition of decorating Christmas trees began with the ancient Romans, who decorated trees with small pieces of metal during their winter festival. Modern Christmas trees originated in Germany in the sixteenth century, when Germans brought "Paradeisbaum," which translates to "paradise trees," into their homes during the holiday season. Christmas trees became popular in the United States in the 1850s; President Franklin Pierce arranged to have the first Christmas tree in the White House.
First, determine where you're placing the Christmas tree. Make sure your Christmas tree doesn't block any entrances or exits, and don't put trees too close to fireplaces or other sources of heat. If you're putting strings of lights on your Christmas tree, add these before you add ornaments. (Consider using LED lights for energy savings.) Then start with your largest ornaments; these make the biggest visual impact and should be distributed evenly among the tree to ensure visual balance.
Next, hang smaller ornaments. Make sure all areas of the tree have ornaments; for example, if young children are helping, make sure you add ornaments to the tall branches they can't reach. Whether you want your Christmas tree's branches weighted down with a dense collection of ornaments or highlighted with a sparse collection of favorite ornaments is a matter of personal preference, but an evenly distributed arrangement is important. Finally, add finishing touches, such as garlands of popcorn or tinsel. Don't forget the top of the tree -- you can add that finishing touch with a star, an angel or a non-traditional tree topper, such as a stuffed animal.
You don't need an elaborate plan to create a beautiful Christmas tree; a mishmash of your favorite ornaments and your kids' handmade ornaments will likely create a beautiful tree that sparkles with memories. However, if you want to try something different, consider giving your tree a theme, such as certain color or combination of colors. For example, you could have a gold tree complete with yellow lights, golden ornaments and golden tinsel, or you could decorate the tree in your favorite sports team's colors.
You can also theme your tree around a hobby, such as gardening or baseball, or a motif, such as the ocean or food. For example, an ocean-themed Christmas tree could include blue and white lights along with starfish, sand dollars and seashell ornaments. A princess-themed Christmas tree might include pink and purple lights, feather boas as garlands and crown ornaments. Alternately, consider decorating a tree with natural decorations, such as acorns, dried fruit slices, feathers, pinecones, holly, dried flowers or seedpods.
The area underneath and around the tree also provides decorating opportunities, especially if you have more than one Christmas tree. For example, use a tree skirt or blanket that matches your tree's theme, such as a blue skirt for an ocean-themed tree. Of course, the space underneath and around the tree is traditionally reserved for presents, but you can also arrange other Christmas items, such as Christmas books, stuffed animals and larger decorations underneath trees.
Twinkling Christmas trees add magic to the holiday season, but they are also a cause of home fires. Stay safe this holiday by checking your lights for frayed wires or excessive wear before stringing them on the tree. Don't link more than three strings of lights together unless the package instructions explicitly state this is safe. Check wires frequently to make sure they aren't warm to the touch, and never leave Christmas lights on unattended. Never decorate a Christmas tree with lit candles, and keep lit candles away from trees and other decorations. If you have small children or pets, make sure you don't hang sharp ornaments or ornaments made from food on the lower branches of the tree.
If you are decorating an artificial or metallic tree, check that it is flame-retardant. If you are decorating a real tree, make sure it has plenty of water. If a tree doesn't have enough water, it will form a seal of dried sap that prevents it from absorbing more water. Adequate water ensures that your tree stays fragrant and prevents needles and branches from becoming brittle or drooping. Add more water to the tree stand every day. Trees that have become dry are a fire hazard, so take down your Christmas tree once it becomes dry. With proper care, your Christmas tree should stay fresh for the entire holiday season. Christmas trees can be recycled into mulch or used as cover in fish ponds. In addition, many areas accept Christmas trees for curbside recycling.