It's always best to buy a freshly cut Christmas tree if possible. If you buy a pre-cut tree be sure to tap the tree on the ground to make sure that it does not lose needles. Look for a green tree with sap on the trunk and limbs that bend but don't break easily. The tree's fragrance should be a strong pine scent. Ask the tree attendant to cut at least 1-2 inches off the trunk so it will absorb water easier.
Once you've brought your tree home, let it stand upright outside, in a bucket of water, until you are ready to bring it in for decorating. Once you bring the tree inside be sure it is placed in the water-filled tree stand immediately. Be sure to buy a stand that holds at least a gallon of water and keep the water level full at all times. Check the water level daily. Trees drink at least a quart of water a day and more the first few days after it's been cut.
Do not place your tree near any type of heater, radiator, fireplace, candles, or any source of heat. Never use candles on any type of Christmas tree. Do not leave candles burning unattended or in a drafty area near the tree. Try to move or remove furniture to keep your tree in a safe area. Try to avoid overcrowding and keep some ventilation around the tree. Flock trees are pretty but not a requirement. If you must flock your tree be sure to read the can to ensure fire resistance first.
Do not place your tree in a high traffic area to prevent it from being knocked over. Be sure your tree is not top-heavy and that the base is adequate. Additional securing of the tree with a wire might be helpful. If you buy an artificial tree, be sure it has been tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in lights should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.
Only use UL approved lights with cool-burning light bulbs and do not link more than 3 strands of lights together. Indoor lights should be used indoors only. Do not use lights for a purpose other than indicated. Each year you should check all the lights and wiring for shorts or other malfunctions before placing them on the tree. If you're in doubt it's best to throw them out! Turn off all Christmas lights, including holiday decorations, when you leave your home or when you go to bed.
Keep delicate, breakable ornaments towards the top of your tree to keep your little ones from reaching them. Be sure to use a sturdy, level ladder to safely reach the top of your tree. Keep the safe, unbreakable decorations, with no small pieces, towards the bottom. If a glass ornament does break be sure to vacuum the area thoroughly. Do not string popcorn chains or candy canes on lower branches to prevent children from trying to eat them. Always monitor your child's consumption of candy canes and other holiday snacks.
Have a safe and Merry Christmas!