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How to Safely Put Up a Real, Live Christmas Tree

Make sure this year’s live holiday tree is not only pretty, but safe, too.


  • Step 1: Choose a fresh tree Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that don’t easily fall off when you shake the trunk or run your fingers over a branch. The drier the tree, the bigger the fire hazard.
  • TIP: Needles should bend but not break, and the trunk should feel sticky with sap.
  • Step 2: Cut the bottom Ask the tree vendor to cut two or three inches off the bottom so your tree will better absorb water from its stand.
  • Step 3: Choose a safe location Choose a spot for the tree at least three feet from a radiator, fireplace, heating vent, or other heat source, and don’t block any exits with it. Never light candles near the tree.
  • Step 4: Get it into water Put the tree into a tree stand filled with fresh water as soon as you bring it home, and keep it watered. Don’t skimp on the tree stand: Use a sturdy one that will keep your tree straight.
  • Step 5: Secure to ceiling With a piece of wire, attach the top of the tree to a hook in the ceiling so it can’t tip over.
  • Step 6: Use the right lights Use tree lights made for indoor use. Check for damaged sockets, missing bulbs, and frayed wires before hanging them on the tree.
  • TIP: Consider upgrading to LED lights, available where other tree lights are sold. You'll spend a bit more, but they're safer because they don’t generate heat.
  • Step 7: Use cord caution Tape down any loose cords so people don't trip over them. Use blue masking tape to prevent paint damage. Never run cords under rugs (it's a fire hazard), and don't attach more than three light strands to an extension cord.
  • TIP: Use heavy-gauge extension cords; they stay cool and don't fray easily.
  • Step 8: Protect kids and pets If you have young children or pets, keep breakable ornaments out of their reach.
  • Step 9: Get rid of a dry tree When the tree starts losing needles, take it to a recycling center. Dried-out trees account for hundreds of fires each year during the holidays.
  • FACT: Benjamin Harrison was the first president to display an official White House Christmas tree.

You Will Need

  • A fresh tree
  • A tree stand
  • Water
  • A ceiling hook
  • A piece of wire
  • Tree lights
  • Blue masking tape
  • LED tree lights
  • Heavy-gauge extension cord

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