The holiday season is full of sacred traditions, heart-warming nostalgia, friend and family gatherings…you know the deal. As we all move through the motions—hanging up indoor and outdoor Christmas decorations, cooking up festive feasts, exchanging gifts—we must remember that perfecting all of the holiday demands is a skill in itself. At the top of that list: hanging lights on your Christmas tree.
And every year, you probably run into the same set of dilemmas. Your Christmas tree is finally up, and you’ve spent the last 45 minutes slinging lights around its branches, taking chances with your rickety old ladder, investigating which broken bulb caused the entire string to turn off—the list goes on.
And when you step back to take a look, the lights may be disorderly, or too dim, or maybe even too bright. While holiday decorating is, for the most part, a fun-loving and joyous affair, the inevitable annoyances can be a true damper, making our spirits slightly less bright. At the forefront of this list is decorating the Christmas tree, which often stumps even the holiday pros.
Unless you possess a happy helper, the job of stringing lights on your Christmas tree is likely to fall to you each year. The familiar tradition of trimming the Christmas tree can either be tedious or fun depending on your preference, and it's also a way for families to introduce their kids to the holiday and get them helping with its preparations.
The first thing you should consider before purchasing lights is the size of your tree. Most holiday decorators recommend 100-150 mini lights per foot. Here’s an easy guide:
6 Foot Tree: 600-900 lights
7 Foot Tree: 700-1050 lights
8 Foot Tree: 800-1200 lights
9 Foot Tree: 900-1350 lights
10 Foot Tree: 1000-1500 lights
Once you have your lights, plug them in to make sure they all work. There’s nothing worse than realizing you don’t have enough lights while in the middle of decorating.
And while you’re decorating, keep the lights plugged in—or plug them in as you go—so that you have a sense of how the tree looks when lit.
TYPES OF CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Mini String Lights: Mini string lights are the most popular Christmas tree lights. They are great for creating a twinkling effect, and can be layered for a full-bodied look. They come in a variety of colors, and are very easy to handle.
Large Bulb Lights: Large bulb lights are higher impact, creating less of a twinkling effect and more of a subtle glow. We recommend these if you want moderate to low light.
Icicle Lights: Icicle lights are designed with one main string in which additional light-covered strings hang from. While these are traditionally used for outdoor holiday decorating, they are easy to hang from your tree and require less strings of lights, while still creating that same, full-bodied twinkle. That said, they can often come across less “neat.”
HANGING LIGHTS ON A REAL TREE
1) When working with a real tree, branches can be less uniform, therefore it is best to not wrap the lights around the tree. Instead, weave them around the tree, working in triangular sections. Use an extension cord to connect the first set of string lights, and work your way from the top of the tree to the bottom.
2) Weave the lights back and forth across the triangular section, placing them about 3-5 inches away from the tip of the branches. For a more natural feel, place some lights a little closer to the tip, and others deeper into the tree. Make sure you aren’t overlapping cords, as this will create a messier look.
3) When adding another string of lights, be sure to tuck the plug and unlit portion of the string into the core of the tree to avoid the appearance of a gap in lights. Continue this process all the way to the bottom.
HANGING LIGHTS ON AN ARTIFICIAL TREE
1) The process for hanging lights on an artificial Christmas tree is fairly similar to that of a real tree. It is usually slightly easier due to the artificial tree’s uniformity.
2) If you want to keep the lights on your artificial tree for the years following (an easy option), we recommend using the same top-to-bottom approach as with a real tree, but instead you should wrap lights around the branches to secure them to the tree. This works best with mini string lights, and is not recommended if you are using large bulb or icicle lights.
HANGING CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTS HORIZONTALLY
First, before you decorate, plug each set of lights in to make sure all the bulbs are working. (This will save you a lot of stress later.)
Starting at the top or bottom of your tree (depending solely on preference), wrap the lights over and under the branches of the tree.
You can mix things up by placing some lights "deeper" into the tree than others, and by alternating the patterns so that it looks more organic. Get creative with it, and have fun!
HOW TO HANG CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTS VERTICALLY
Plug the lights in to make sure all the bulbs are working.
Start with the plugless end of your lights at the top or bottom of the tree (Bilotto, for what it's worth, is a top-starter) and let the lights lay vertically like a seam.
Each time you reach the top or bottom, turn the lights back the other way until you have a sideways "S" pattern around the whole tree.