With A Fresh Cut Tree & Few Precautions It's Safer Than You'd Think
I’ve developed a contact allergy to spruce, pine and any type of conifer needles. So this year for the first time in my life I have an artificial Christmas tree. The fake tree is 4 ½ feet tall and came complete with attached mini white electric lights.
This new holiday development completely delights my mother-in-law.
That’s because in the past I have used fresh wild trees and small live candles to decorate and illuminate my Christmas trees. As far as my mother-in-law is concerned live burning candles on a Christmas tree is more holiday tradition than her nerves can handle.
I’ve spent 20 fruitless years trying to explain to my husband’s mother that live candles on a fresh tree are actually very safe.
Burning candles on a fresh conifer tree has a long tradition and is an entirely non-electric way to enjoy the Christmas holiday. There’s never a need for any “made in China” regrets and it’s completely sustainable.
Even if TEOTWAKWI comes along, Christmas trees with candles and homemade decorations will continue to enchant children. That’s because it is possible to make small hand dipped tapered candles with bee’s wax, tallow and candle wicking.
There are certain requirements in order to safely and successfully use live candles on a Christmas tree.
- The first requirement and the most important is that the tree MUST be living and absolutely fresh.
This is non-negotiable. It is not enough that the tree be live: the tree must be fresh-cut. Most live trees that are sold on lots or in stores are anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks old. Avoid them. It’s best to cut your own tree so there is never any doubt. Fresh conifers are very resistant to flame and burning. If you don’t believe me test it yourself with a lighter.
Dried out conifers are a completely different story and are an extreme fire hazard. Trees may look green but still be dried out. Never use candles on an old tree.
- When choosing a fresh Christmas tree for live candles, choose a tree with open spaces between the branches.
Most commercial plantation grown trees are pruned to be very bushy with close tight branches and sometimes they don’t work as well with candles. That because the flame of a burning candle needs “head room” in order to burn. Trees with tight compact branches usually don’t have enough space. When looking for a tree to cut,choose a tree with space between the branches. The more space the better.
Remember you don’t need to worry about concealing unsightly electric wires. Your Christmas tree is all decorations and candles.
- The Christmas tree should not be brought into the house before December 23rd or Christmas Eve.
Now I know that for some of you who were not born before 1950 or so will find this advice to be an intolerable recommendation – too bad.
You cannot afford to have the tree dry out if you want to stay safe. Christmas trees are for Christmas not for Thanksgiving or the first weeks of December. Sadly in modern America Thanksgiving is no longer its own holiday but has become a part of Christmas.
Such a shame. Mainstream American culture has normalized Retail Culture.
Many people hurry the season and decorate before the winter solstice and do not keep the traditional twelve days of Christmas.
For those of you who don’t know, the twelve days of Christmas begin midnight December 25 and last until sundown January 6. Traditionally the Christmas season ends February 2 on Candlemas Day.
No sense in trying to hurry Christmas. It will come when it comes – it always does.
- In order for the candles to stay secure on the tree they are usually held on with candle clips.
Candle clips are readily available on eBay or Amazon. Many Christmas specialty stores carry them and they are often imported from Germany. When I decorate my Christmas trees I place the candle holders on the tree first before any decorations and I work from top to bottom.
The candle clips are made to swivel.The swivel is very helpful for getting the candles to stay in an upright position. When placing a clip I look for an open branch area.
I place the clip onto the branch and then insert the candle. Sometimes it will take a bit of adjustment to get the candle just right. I use only glass decorations with live candles. The candlelight reflection on the glass is beautiful. Glass will not burn and is an extra safety precaution.
- Live candles on a Christmas tree should be burned no more than 15 minutes at a time.
The Christmas tree should NEVER be left unattended and a responsible adult must be in the room at all times. I have always kept a bucket of water handy in a nearby corner but have never had any cause to use it.
Just so you know sometimes live candles will set off a smoke detector and wax will drip onto the floor if the candles are left burning for too long.
As long as the tree is kept very well watered the candles can be safely burned every night during the twelve days of Christmas for 10 or 15 minutes.
Because the tree is not illuminated with electricity the moments that the Christmas tree is lit becomes a very special and focused experience.
Electricity can make us take so much in life for granted.
Christmas trees and the moments we spend with our families during this coming season are special times.
You can be sure that the moments I’ll spend with my mother-in-law this year with the new fake tree will be very special indeed.
With or without the candles.