A natural Christmas tree has a way of conjuring up memories of holidays past; the pungent smell of fresh pine needles, the sight of twinkling lights wrapped around the branches – not to mention all the colourful gifts waiting to be opened underneath – are all powerful reminders of the spirit of the holidays. Without proper care however, your majestic Christmas tree can quickly become a Charlie Brown-style twig or even a fire hazard. By following these six steps, you can avoid a cleaning headache on Boxing Day. 1. Choose your tree wisely. Not all Christmas trees are created equal. Fir trees, like the Douglas or Balsam Fir, and pine trees like the Scotch or White Pine hold their needles long after being cut down. Other varieties, like the Nordic or White Spruce, have poor needle retention and should only be bought and used as “living” Christmas trees (with the roots still attached). 2. Pick a healthy specimen. As a general rule of thumb, fresh-cut Christmas trees will last longer than pre-cut ones. Watch out for trees that have a large number of browning needles, or ones whose needles are rigid or fall off when brushed – they’re well on their way to becoming kindling. 3. Keep your tree hydrated. After bringing your tree home, cut about an inch off the trunk to allow water to flow into the stump. Keep your tree outside in a bucket of water for a few hours before mounting it indoors. You should purchase a Christmas tree stand that allows you to water your tree, and change the water at least once a day. 4. Cover your floor. Protect your floor from pine needle, debris and sap by choosing a tree skirt that is at least as wide as the tree, if not longer. For easy cleanup, place a plastic tarp on the ground under your tree skirt. When you’re ready to take your tree out to the curb, simply roll up the tarp and toss any fallen needles into the trash. 5. Remove any fire hazards. Keep your tree well away from fireplaces, space heaters, candles or other sources of heat; they’ll not only dry the tree out, they can also cause it to ignite. Check the cords of Christmas lights for exposed wiring and replace any bulbs that aren’t working. 6. Decorate with care. After mounting your tree, give it a day before decorating, to allow the branches to settle into their natural position. Add the heaviest decorations, like the lights, first, wraping them closest to the tree. Follow them up with draping decorations like tinsel, then the ornaments, and finally the star!