Christmas is done and gone. Its almost time to wish those near and dear a Happy New Year. Out with the old and in with the new, right?

And last Christmas' buddy, your old faithful tree has got to go, but when?

It's always a task we dread. It means the holiday is officially over, and who likes to admit that? But, when does leaving the Christmas tree up move beyond savoring the good times into laziness or even insanity? That's what we're here to answer because it's not only about holiday cheer, but eliminating a potential health risk as well.

According to religious lore, you're not supposed to take your tree down until January 7, or the day of the epiphany, when the three wise men came to visit the baby Jesus. However, sometimes leaving your tree up for the 12 days of Christmas is not an option.

A fresh tree that is set in water and still retaining moisture can be left up for as long as it remains that way, but when the needles start falling off, you need to reevaluate.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they do happen, they can be very serious. One out of every 18 reported Christmas tree fires results in death, which is a very high percentage, especially when compared to the normal ratio of one death per 141 home fires.

But, there are a few simple safety tips you can follow to ensure this doesn't happen:

1. Cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk before placing it in a tree stand.
2. Water daily.
3. Keep your tree at least three feet away from heat sources like the fireplace, radiators or heat vents.
4. Do not use light strings with exposed or frayed wires or loose bulb connections.
5. Never decorate with candles.
6. Turn the tree off before going to bed.

As far as taking the Christmas tree down, the NFPA recommends removing the tree as soon as it looses its smell and begins dropping needles. When your tree no longer retains moisture, it becomes a fire hazard.

If you water daily, a tree should remain fresh for at least three weeks, so depending on when you put it up, start looking for signs of drying out about 2-3 weeks later.

Recycling your tree is pretty easy. Just leave it at the curb on trash day (so sad, I know but it'll be in a "better place"). Just don't put it in a plastic bag. The cold won't bother it, and the recycling people prefer not to have to peel away the plastic, which is not very biodegradable.

You say your Christmas tree's a fake? Then why not make the holiday season last a little longer by leaving it up 'til New Years Day.

Oh, and have a happy and safe new year!

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