Bringing a freshly cut tree into your home is as much a treat for your senses as it is a responsibility. Left unattended, a tree not only dries out and loses its natural, woodsy scent, but drops needles and becomes a fire hazard; the wrong Christmas lights are only one form of ignition. You can decrease danger and keep the tree fresh for three to four weeks with the right care before and after setting it up.

Mother and Daughter Sitting on Steps Christmas Morning
credit: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
Turn off Christmas-tree lights before going to bed or leaving the home.

Step 1

Cut about 1/4 inch from the tree trunk if the tree was stored for more than 12 hours after harvest. Make the cut straight across, perpendicular to the trunk, using a handsaw. This improves water uptake and helps the tree stand upright in its stand.

Step 2

Store the tree with its trunk in a bucket of water in a cool, shady or dimly lit area such as a carport or unheated garage if you don't plan to bring it inside for a day or more. Add water to the bucket as needed and check it daily.

Step 3

Choose an ideal indoor place for the tree. The tree must be at least 3 feet from any flame or heat source such as a fireplace, candles, lamps or radiator to reduce fire hazard and dehydration. Position the tree out of direct sunlight to slow the drying-out process, extending its freshness. Rearrange furniture if necessary.

Step 4

Erect the tree indoors in a suitable tree stand.

Step 5

Check the stand's water reservoir daily and add water as needed. Make sure the room is not overly warm as this increases the tree's need for water. Keep the room only as warm as necessary or turn down the heat before leaving the home.

Step 6

Use light-emitting-diode Christmas-tree lights if you plan to decorate the tree with lights.

Step 7

Comb your fingers through the tree's needles daily to check for dryness. If needles drop off, the tree is no longer fresh. Remove it from the home.