The tree was traditionally decorated with "roses made of colored paper, apples, wafers, tinsel, [and] sweetmeats". In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles, which were ultimately replaced by Christmas lights after the advent of electrification. Today, there is a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garlands, baubles, tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star might be placed at the top of the tree to represent the Angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem, respectively, from the Nativity. Edible items such as gingerbread, chocolate and other sweets are also popular and are tied to or hung from the tree's branches with ribbons.
Ideally, you want a mixture of plastic and metal. The best Christmas tree stands that we tested used metal for the moving parts and plastic in the interior. You don't want metal all the way through because trees have to be water and that can corrode steel. The exterior should be made of either metal or high-density plastic. Both of these materials resist impact and scuffing so the stand can last for years to come.
However, this GE tree has fewer lights than the National Tree—600 versus 750—so it falls just short of our recommended 100 lights per foot of tree. And at 30 percent polyethylene, versus 37 percent on the National Tree pick, the GE tree has a lower proportion of ultra-realistic branch tips—and a higher proportion of fake-looking PVC “needles.” You’ll never notice a difference from across the room, or even halfway across it, but up close you may find the GE slightly more artificial-looking.
Size: The size and width of your tree is an important factor to consider when searching for Christmas tree stands. Standard Christmas tree stands support trees up to 7 feet tall. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines to find out if a stand can accommodate taller Christmas trees. If you do have a taller tree, look for Christmas tree stands with a circular base. A stand with a wide, circular Christmas tree base provides better stabilization, preventing your room’s star attraction from tipping over while also keeping it perfectly aligned.
Featuring our exclusive Real Feel™ needles, our highly realistic trees mimic the texture and color of true evergreen foliage, allowing you to enjoy all of the advantages of an artificial Christmas tree without sacrificing the beauty of a real one. These realistic tree varieties look and feel so lifelike and natural, you can almost smell the familiar fragrance of snow-covered pine on Christmas morning. Its sturdy, evenly placed branches and tips offer plenty of room for your Christmas decorations, making it easier for all members of the family to hang their favorite cards and ornaments. From the lofty beauty of the Grand Fir to the sleek design of the Oregonian Slim that allows you to save decorating space, you can find a tree that fits your home and style perfectly.
While traditional green wreaths are readily available, there are many other not-so-traditional colors to choose from. Flashy gold or silver wreaths pop with a sparkle. While winter white is also a popular choice, but you can certainly go for a fire red berry wreath if you wish. Many of the wreath designs exude a quality, handmade appearance with natural-looking pine cones or berries.
Pre-lit trees and type of lights: While deciding whether to buy a pre-lit tree is a personal decision, we suggest that you don’t. Though the quality of string lights has improved in the past several years, you still risk the lights on your tree burning out before you’ve gotten full use of the tree. Furthermore, you usually cannot remove the lights from the tree.
The giving of Christmas trees has also often been associated with the end of hostilities. After the signing of the Armistice in 1918 the city of Manchester sent a tree, and £500 to buy chocolate and cakes, for the children of the much-bombarded town of Lille in northern France. In some cases the trees represent special commemorative gifts, such as in Trafalgar Square in London, where the City of Oslo, Norway presents a tree to the people of London as a token of appreciation for the British support of Norwegian resistance during the Second World War; in Boston, where the tree is a gift from the province of Nova Scotia, in thanks for rapid deployment of supplies and rescuers to the 1917 ammunition ship explosion that leveled the city of Halifax; and in Newcastle upon Tyne, where the main civic Christmas tree is an annual gift from the city of Bergen, in thanks for the part played by soldiers from Newcastle in liberating Bergen from Nazi occupation. Norway also annually gifts a Christmas tree to Washington, D.C. as a symbol of friendship between Norway and the US and as an expression of gratitude from Norway for the help received from the US during World War II.
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Because we advised against pre-lit trees (as you typically can’t remove the lights from the tree even if they burn out), we chose to focus our research on unlit trees. That being said, we know that the convenience of a pre-lit tree is sometimes irresistible. And we have to admit, they make festive night lights. So, we’re still sharing our favorite pre-lit pick.
“We used this for a three- to four-foot tree this past Christmas, and it’s a perfect stand with a nice, deep well, so you don’t have to water constantly (and it doesn’t spill easily). I had the hardest time finding a stand for a small (but not tiny) tree, but we hit the jackpot with this guy. The screws are easy to use, and screw easily, and since you’re dealing with a small tree, it’s not nearly the ordeal that putting big trees in a stand is. As long as we’re in our little apartment and buying more diminutive Christmas trees, this guy will serve us well. Highly recommend!”
Second, it needs a sizeable reservoir of water to keep the tree moist and “alive” (or at least prevent it from drying out and losing all its needles) for as long as possible. A dry tree is not only ugly and messy, it’s a fire hazard. Though this is rare, it does happen—according to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2009 and 2013, Christmas trees were the source of an average of 210 home fires each year, according to a National Fire Protection Association. So how much water is enough? The National Christmas Tree Association notes that, “Generally, a tree can use up to one quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter.” That’s 1½ gallons each day for a 6-inch-diameter tree. Larger water capacity is always better, so you’re not constantly worried about watering the tree.
^ Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (1978). Das Weihnachtsfest. Eine Kultur- und Sozialgeschichte der Weihnachtszeit [Christmas: A cultural and social history of Christmastide] (in German). Bucher. p. 22. ISBN 3-7658-0273-5. Man kann als sicher annehmen daß die Luzienbräuche gemeinsam mit dem Weinachtsbaum in Laufe des 19. Jahrhunderts aus Deutschland über die gesellschaftliche Oberschicht der Herrenhöfe nach Schweden gekommen sind. (English: One can assume with certainty that traditions of lighting, together with the Christmas tree, crossed from Germany to Sweden in the 19th century via the princely upper classes.)
Here’s the basic fact: You can find plenty of great artificial trees these days. They come in dozens of “species” (assorted firs, spruces, redwoods, and pines); multiple heights and girths; multiple levels of realism (and many colors never seen in nature); versions that are bare-branched, or frosted or flocked with fake snow; and pre-lit and unlit variants with LED or incandescent options.
For even more convenience, purchase a pre-lit tree so all you have to do is add ornaments and garland and you’re ready to celebrate. To help save money on electric bills, try a Christmas tree with energy-saving LED lights and add a light timer to make sure your lights consistently turn off at the same hour each night. Even better, you can set up Remote Control Christmas Trees that let you change the color of the lights with just a click of a button. For more information on how to choose the right artificial tree for your Christmas décor, see our Artificial Christmas Tree Buying Guide.