First things first—you need to pick a healthy tree off the lot. Gently bounce a branch or two to make sure most of the needles stay on and it’s not too dried out. If you attach it to the top of your car for transport, position it with the stump side forward so excess needles don’t blow off.
Start by putting a tree bag over the stump (this will make disposal a breeze), then place the tree in its stand and fill it with clean, cold water. Check the water level daily to make sure the stump remains wet. Wait a few hours before you start decorating to allow the branches to settle.
Start with the lights. Untangle the cords and plug them in to make sure no bulbs need to be replaced. If your tree is set up next to a wall, no need to wind the lights all the way around the evergreen—simply zig-zag them back and forth across the ¾ of the tree you can see. Here’s the big trick: When you think you’ve finished with the lights, step back and squint your eyes while looking at the tree. Any “bald spots” will appear so you know where to adjust the lights.
Next, place the tree topper. Do this before adding fragile ornaments to avoid the risk of any getting knocked off.
When it comes to hanging ornaments, expert Michael Walter suggests taking three similar looking adornments and hanging them near each other. Create a triangular pattern and vary the depths of each ornament so it doesn’t look forced. Hang some toward the outside of the branches (the lighter the better here) and nestle others deeper inside. Repeat this trick until the tree is evenly coated with ornaments.
Now it’s time to heat up some hot cocoa (amped up with one of these flavor boosters) and enjoy gazing at your handiwork. Happy holidays!