How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree + What Not to Do When Decorating For Christmas

Whether you’re a stickler for Christmas tree symmetry or prefer a more eclectic look, how you hang lights on a tree is arguably one of the most important elements of the overall effect.

There's a strategy to light placement when putting lights on a Christmas tree. Your tree will have more dimension and an inner glow if you put the lights close to the trunk as well as near the outer branches of the tree.

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Photo by: Derek Trimble; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Derek Trimble; Styling by H. Camille Smith

There's a strategy to light placement when putting lights on a Christmas tree. Your tree will have more dimension and an inner glow if you put the lights close to the trunk as well as near the outer branches of the tree.

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You've pulled the box from the attic, dragged it down the stairs and cut through last year's layer of packing tape to reveal the Christmas tree that will adorn your home for another holiday season.

But now, you have to decorate it.

I always start decorating the Christmas tree by putting on the lights, followed by adding the garland and then finished off with hanging a broad assortment of ornaments. You know what really grinds my Yuletide gears? Trying to arrange the lights in a somewhat uniform pattern equally distanced across the Christmas tree.

How Many Christmas Lights Do I Need for My Tree?

Yes, there's a formula for determining how long a light strand should be. Lowe's offers this rule of thumb for how many lights a Christmas tree needs: 100 mini lights for every 1.5 feet of vertical height in your Christmas tree.

If you have a 6-foot Christmas tree, calculate it like this:

• Divide 6 by 1.5, which equals 4.
• Multiply 4 by 100.
• Find that your 6-foot Christmas tree needs a total of 400 lights.

Most strands of Christmas lights have 100 lights, so in this case, you would plan on chaining 4 of them together.

How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree

1. Consider the Plug Placement

Despite the fact that I've been decorating my own Christmas tree in my own home for the last 12 Christmases, I have to triple check that I start with the proper end of lights at the bottom of the tree. Typically, you want the male end of the plug (the one with the prongs showing) at the bottom of the Christmas tree to plug into your wall or a power strip. Other light strands can be added on as you work your way up the tree.

2. Start at the Bottom

Start at the bottom of the tree and wrap your lights around and along each branch to disperse the lights at multiple depths in the tree. Make sure to leave yourself a bit of slack in the light strand for adjustments later.

Modern Living Room With Rustic Christmas Decor and an Extra-large Tree

Where to start when hanging lights on a Christmas tree? Begin at the bottom and work your way up, making sure the correct end of the light string plug — the end with the prongs — can be plugged into an extension cord or an outlet.

From:

Photo by: David Tsay; Styled by Catherine Dash

David Tsay; Styled by Catherine Dash

Where to start when hanging lights on a Christmas tree? Begin at the bottom and work your way up, making sure the correct end of the light string plug — the end with the prongs — can be plugged into an extension cord or an outlet.

3. Give Your Christmas Tree an Inner Glow

Show of hands, how many of us have just sort of wrapped lights around the very outside of the tree and called it a day?

It turns out there's a better way: Your Christmas tree will have more dimension and an inner glow if you make sure the lights are placed close to the trunk as well as near the outer branches of the tree.

4. Check for Consistency

Once you have finished stringing lights on the Christmas tree, turn the tree's lights on, take several steps back and ask yourself some questions. Are the lights evenly dispersed? Are there any lights bunched up in one place? Have you missed any spots?

TIP: If you need to, turn off the overhead lights in the room so you can get a better idea for how your Christmas lights are strung.

What Kind of Lights Should I Hang On My Christmas Tree?

That is entirely up to you. You can't go wrong with the classic bulbs we all know and love, but you can also experiment with other lights if you choose.

Your other Christmas light options include:

• App-controlled Christmas lights - Easily customize how your Christmas lights look when you buy light strands compatible with a smart phone app, such as these.
• Oversized bulbs - Go for a bigger, bolder look with C7- or C9-sized bulbs, both of which come in at more than 2 inches in length.
• Globe-style bulbs - These Christmas lights have spherical bulbs instead of longer, pointed bulbs.
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Christmas Tree Decorating Don'ts

Don't forget to water a live tree

If you are using a live tree, don't forget to water it. The tree needs water throughout the holiday season to ensure that the branches stay pretty and to protect the tree from catching on fire.

Don't skip the light check

It'll really take the wind out of your holiday sails if you string lights on the Christmas tree just to realize there's a short in the wire, a bulb is broken or the lights you expected to blink don't do anything anymore. Plug them in and inspect the wires and bulbs before you hang lights on the tree. Any light strands with frayed wires should be thrown away.

Don't string lights on a tall Christmas tree without help

If you need a ladder to string lights on your Christmas tree, you also need a spotter for safety. Don't be one of the 14,000 people who visit the emergency room due to decor mishaps during the holidays.

Happy Holidays from HGTV!

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