There's 1 Big Risk Of Keeping Up Your Christmas Tree Into The New Year

Don't make this mistake with your real tree after the holidays.
Experts explain why you may want to think twice before leaving up your tree.
10'000 Hours via Getty Images
Experts explain why you may want to think twice before leaving up your tree.

We all tend to focus on the best practices when it comes to putting up real Christmas trees, but there is a lot to be said about what to do when getting rid of it. Specifically, is there a best time to do it?

According to experts, the answer is yes. You may want to prolong the merriment into the new year (or just don’t have the energy to take it down), but it turns out there’s one major reason why you should: “Once that tree dries out … it can burn,” said Jill Sidebottom, a spokeswoman for the National Christmas Tree Association.

Firefighters see about 160 home structure fires per year as a result of a Christmas tree, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

To further protect yourself, the NFPA suggests placing the tree at least 3 feet from any heat source, making sure it’s not blocking an exit and ensuring that decorative lights are in good working order.

Although the risk overall is rare, it’s certainly an issue worth discussing when decorating ― and choosing when to undecorate ― your space for the holidays.

“A fresh-cut, well-watered tree will not burn,” said J. Scott Edwards, the general manager at Maple Row Farm. “However, a very dry tree can be of concern.”

How do I know if my Christmas tree is dry?

There are a few ways to figure out if a tree is dry, starting with its colour. If you notice your tree changes in hue to a lighter green, brown or even red, Sidebottom said, you should start thinking about taking it down.

Also keep an eye on the tree’s needles. “When the tree dries out, the needles and small shoots will become stiffer and less bendable,” Sidebottom explained.

The tree’s engagement with water could also be indicative of its condition. “If a tree that has been taking up water quits doing so, that’s a sign,” Sidebottom said. “The tree will also be lighter, as it is no longer full of water.”

Other factors to keep in mind include a musty odor and wrinkled bark, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Any or all of the above characteristics could appear in your tree, Sidebottom said.

You can tell your tree is drying house based on factors like the color and the needles.
Westend61 via Getty Images
You can tell your tree is drying house based on factors like the color and the needles.

When you bought your tree also influences when you should take it down.

About 33% of people buy their tree right after Thanksgiving and another 33% do so the first week of December, according to a survey the Real Christmas Tree Board released this year.

When you actually cut down your tree will influence when you should think about removing it from your home, Edwards said.

“The earlier you cut the tree, the earlier it needs to be taken down,” he explained, noting that the drying process kicks off as soon as the tree is removed from the farm. “We often refer to cut flowers when talking about tree care,” he added. “It’s really just a big flower. It doesn’t last forever.”

Overall, Sidebottom urged people to “use their common sense” when it comes to taking down the tree. Removing your tree when it’s dry keeps everything – and everyone – in the house safe.

For what it’s worth, she suggested, try not to think of the cleanup process as the end of the usually happy, sentimental holiday season.

“I always enjoy putting the tree up, but I enjoy taking it down too,” Sidebottom said. “Putting all those memories away and tidying up the house is like getting ready for the new year.”