Before you bag the biggest blue spruce you can get in the door, consider the advantages of a smaller holiday tree in a tabletop stand.
For one thing, the stands themselves can be attractive. Large-tree stands almost have to be ungainly, considering the weight load and quantity of water they have to bear.
But smaller tree stands don't have to hide behind a skirt. Decorative cast iron, ceramic or painted aluminum stands were made to be seen.
Antique Christmas tree stands from Germany are highly collectible, selling for well over $100 in antique stores and on eBay.
Martha Banning of Overland Park, has a rotating German stand with an integrated music box that has been in her family for four generations. Today, the stand is a treasured display object in Banning's home. But 30-odd years ago, she says, it held the family's live Christmas trees year after year.
"I remember as a grade-school kid mother would put a 5-foot tree in the stand," Banning says. The stand was placed on a table, she says, "so we could see it well. And it wasn't going to support a real tall tree."
Keep in mind that many antique tree stands offer no water reservoir, because people did not keep live trees up for as long as they do now. If you like to have your tree up for two weeks or longer, you should choose either a stand with a reservoir and a live tree or go with an artificial tree.
Kathy Kelly, lead designer at Helix Architecture+Design, finds tabletop trees appealing because of, not in spite of, their smaller stature. "I love the idea of over-scale or under-scale."
In addition, Kelly says, people tend to be more selective when they put decorations on a tabletop tree.
"It's edited," she says.
Plus, with a raised tree, Kelly points out, you can see the skirt and the presents.
"Some people spend a lot of time on beautiful wrappings, and then you can't even see them."
A smaller tree on a table opens up interesting new possibilities in terms of location. For example, Kelly recalls being in a home in which the Christmas tree was on a table in the middle of a room, directly beneath an attractive light fixture.
"That placement made it a feature of the room," Kelly says. "From all sides, you could see through the branches, really see the ornaments. A big tree would have been inappropriate in the same spot."
Banning says her family put their tree antique stand on a table for a practical reason: so they could turn the music box on and off.
These days Banning uses artificial trees because her son has asthma. But she still puts the tree on a platform "so you can see the skirt. And to follow a tradition."