Growing up, my dad and brother and I would always put on our boots and march out into the woods to find our Christmas tree. Would we go for a strong, robust stand-alone tree? An alternative variety of fir tree? A Charlie Brown tree with bad posture and bald spots?

Row of Beautiful and Vibrant Christmas Trees
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Our dad would grab a branch and shake off the snow to let us see our contender in all its glory. He was the final appraiser of tree worth, deciding whether a tree was viable as our Christmas selection or if we should move on. I always wondered how he could tell what trees were better than others. Here are some tips from UNH on how to select and prep the tree of your dreams this Christmas:

Go Local

It goes without saying; it's better to support your local tree farmers than a factory store like Target or Home Depot that ships them in from somewhere else. In addition, local farmers typically cut their trees within a week of selling them, while trees you buy from large commercial chains could have been cut more like a month before you're paying for them.

Assess The Needles

Squeeze, bang, and look. Squeeze the needles to see if they're still juicy and plump, as opposed to dried out and brittle. Bang the tree against the floor once or twice to see how many needles fall off (there shouldn't be many if it's still fresh). Look at the color - it should be bright a green, with no ashy color. Get a fresh tree that will last longer!

Expose The Trunk

UNH says to ask tree farmers to cut off the bottom inch or so from precut trees (or do it yourself at home) to expose the base of your tree so it can drink fresh water more readily. Much like trimming flower stems in a bouquet, it keeps them fresh and thirsty!

Let It Rest

I know you're eager to post that baby evergreen up in your living room and start decking her out, but take a breather first. If you have a deck or garage, let the tree rest for a few hours or overnight to dry off, settle, and let the bugs escape before setting it up for real in the corner of the family room.

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