Can you imagine Christmas without lights? The holiday season won’t feel complete without twinkling strings of merry and bright bulbs. Aside from illuminating spaces, lights are wonderful accents to Christmas trees, too.

Have you ever wondered exactly how to put lights on a Christmas tree? We break down what you need with our step-by-step guide. Plus, we’re throwing in some brilliant themes.

What You Need to Prepare

1. Start with your Christmas tree

It’s your blank canvas, after all. Your tree is your basis for how many lights you’ll need, what type to buy, and the suitable lighting design.

Consider your available space and ceiling height when choosing your tree shape: full, slim, or pencil. You don’t want a tree that’s too small for the room, right? Beyond that, keep in mind that a larger tree also requires more lights. If you want more tips on picking the right Christmas tree, review our Guide to Christmas Tree Sizes and Shapes.

Next, real or artificial? Light lovers prefer getting an artificial Christmas tree over a real tree. With an artificial tree, you work with sections: top, middle, and bottom. It also has uniform branches that don’t easily break off or shed foliage as you hang your lights.

Tip: You can leave the lights on a pre-lit artificial tree after the season. There’s no need to re-do the whole process in the coming years! Just make sure to store the tree properly.

Now, what color? Traditional trees with realistic evergreen foliage are versatile. You can dress them up, give them a classic look, or have fun quirking them up. You can also choose fun colorful trees to express your unique personality. How about a silver, pink, or patterned tree? Both traditional and colorful trees let you play with different lighting styles and holiday decorating themes.

Silver and green Christmas trees with lights by Treetopia

With pre-lit Christmas trees, all you need to do is to test for broken lights. Otherwise, you can simply add extra lights to make your tree glow even more. Meanwhile, an unlit Christmas tree gives you more flexibility. The style, position, and the bulb count of the lights are up to you.

Let’s say you’re convinced on getting a pre-lit Christmas tree. Consider the color and type of lights that come with them. Clear, colored, or multicolored? For instance, Treetopia’s Winter White Christmas Tree and Balsam Spruce Christmas Tree come unlit or with clear or multicolored lights. You also have a choice between traditional incandescent bulbs and bright, energy-saving LED lights.

Winter White and Balsam Spruce Pre-Lit Christmas Tree by Treetopia

2. Determine how many lights you need

How many lights your preferred tree needs depends on its height. Expert decorators usually recommend 100 to 150 lights per foot of the Christmas tree. For example, an average 7-foot unlit tree needs lights with 700 to 1,050 bulbs.

Again, there are various types of Christmas lights to choose from. Clear incandescent lights or fairy lights give your tree a warm glow. Or, you can make your tree sparkle with merry and bright hues using multicolored LED lights.

Choosing your tree color is one thing, but don’t forget the technical side of decorating, too! Always check the specs before you make that purchase. Look for UL®-approved lights. These products passed quality checks by Underwriters Laboratories, a global safety certification company.

Also, make sure your light strings are compatible with each other and have the same wattage. This way, you can avoid connection issues and problems with product warranty.

3. Check your tree lights before you decorate

Carefully untangle the strands then plug them in to check the bulbs. Choose a light set where if one bulb burns out, the rest remain lit. In case you spot damaged light bulbs, you can switch them out before you start hanging lights on your tree.

4. Always keep safety in mind

Prepare the necessary tools and equipment. Use a sturdy stepladder when you drape lights toward the top of your tree. If needed, have the appropriate extension cord on hand and don’t overload it. Keep cords and outlets away from where kids and pets can reach them.

It might be best to recruit a happy helper or two. Make it a family activity, especially if you’re decorating a huge tree. Ashley Glass recruited her husband and kids to decorate this gorgeous 9-foot fir tree.

How to Hang Christmas Lights on an Artificial Tree

Here’s a step-by-step guide once you’re ready to string your Christmas lights:

1. Plug in the lights, so you can see what they look like lit as you decorate.

2. Wrap each tree section in lights. Do this before stacking the sections, so you can easily take them apart later on.

Treetopia ambassador Jennifer Perkins putting lights on Christmas tree

3. Start from the top or bottom. With a bottom-to-top approach, you can make sure that the plug reaches your extension cord or power outlet. If you want to start from the top, you’ll have to modify step two and stack the sections before you string lights.

4. Weave the lights over and under each branch. This is the traditional horizontal technique.

Tip: You can decorate vertically, too. Instead of circling the tree, you can interlace the strands up and down the branches in an “S” pattern. This helps you position the lights closer to the tips of the branches instead of the tree trunk.

5. Assemble your tree and connect the light plugs as you go along. Hide the connected plugs near the tree trunk or behind thick foliage.

6. Once you’re done, check your handiwork from afar. Check for “dead spaces” that need to be filled, areas that have excess lights, and wires that need hiding.

Try These Hacks from the Pros

We’ve gathered some tips and tricks on hanging Christmas lights. Read on for the advice of experienced decorators.

Pencil-shaped Christmas tree with lights by Treetopia
Decorating theme and image by All Things With Purpose

1. Don’t want to use a lot of lights? Choose a smaller or slimmer tree. Sarah of All Things With Purpose chose this pencil-shaped Christmas tree for her small living room space. Maybe you can consider a flatback tree or corner tree, too?

2. What if you already have a tall full-profile tree? It’s not a good idea to position it against a window if you don’t have many lights. Keep your tree in one corner and focus on decorating only one side. The other side won’t be visible anyway, so there’s no need to string lights.

3. You might want to wrap some lights closer to the trunk and the others nearer the tips to create depth. Hanging tinsel and other ornaments that reflect light can have a similar effect.

Green unlit Christmas tree by Treetopia
Decorating theme and image by Jennifer Perkins

4. Here’s another hack from our brand ambassador, Jennifer Perkins: “Tie a string to the end of your lights. For instance, if you started wrapping the bottom portion of your tree first, you want to make sure the male end is at the base so you can plug it in and the female end is at the top so that it can connect to the second portion of the tree. A bright ribbon around the ends makes those plug ends easier to find.”

5. Wires shouldn’t be obvious. Make sure the light strings match the color of your tree branches and foliage. You can also use floral wire to keep light strands and bulbs in place and to keep plugs or connectors hidden.

6. Let’s say you’re capping off your sparkly tree with a lighted tree topper like Michael Wurm, Jr. of Inspired By Charm. If so, string your Christmas lights in a way that there’s an available socket at the top.

Treetopia All That Glitters Gold Christmas Tree with lights
Decorating theme and image by Inspired By Charm

Decorating Ideas to Inspire You

Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to think of all the creative ways to dress up your Christmas tree with lights. Take a look at these sparkly, chic, and literally brilliant décor ideas.

1. Toned Down for the Trinkets

Keep it light with your lights. Go for subdued lighting and shine a spotlight on your precious ornaments. Clear incandescent lights would be a great choice for this theme.

Treetopia Balsam Spruce artificial Christmas tree with lights

2. Reflection Affection

Make a twinkly showpiece. Match your well-lit tree with minimal glass or metallic ornaments. Baubles in gold or silver tones also do the trick.

Black Gold Ombre pre-lit Christmas tree by Treetopia

3. For the Love of Layers

Why not pile it on? Try layering lights with various brightness levels, hues, and forms. Oversized lighted ornaments like the ones used by Lia Griffith help you make a statement—literally.

Treetopia Snowy Spruce Flocked Christmas tree with lights
Decorating theme and image by Lia Griffith

4. Happy Holi-DIYs!

Deck your one-of-a-kind tree with lights. Make your DIY Christmas ornaments pop against a gleaming background. Take inspiration from Kara of A Kailo Chic Life who displayed word ornaments on a radiant white tree.

White pre-lit Christmas tree by Treetopia
Decorating theme and image by A Kailo Chic Life

Tip: You can weave clear lights close to the branch tips to make a pre-lit Christmas tree even brighter.

5. A Family Affair

Decorate the matching foliage, too. Displaying wreaths and garlands? Don’t leave them out of the dazzling fun! Yami of The Latina Next Door accented the garland on her fireplace mantel with warm lights to match her traditional tree.

Treetopia Balsam Spruce Christmas tree with decorations and lights
Decorating theme and image by The Latina Next Door

6. The More, the Merrier

Design your space with multiple trees. A pair of pencil trees can flank an entryway or your fireplace. You can also display tabletop Christmas trees like cute mini versions of your main tree. You won’t run out of ways to brighten your rooms!

White artificial Christmas tree with lights by Treetopia

Lights are a sure way to add cheer and flair to your Christmas tree. Just stay organized when stringing lights to avoid stress and accidents. Don’t hesitate to bring your bright ideas to life with these twinkling decorations.

We hope you found this guide on how to put lights on a Christmas tree useful and inspiring. If you think it could also spark ideas for others who are gearing up for the holidays, share it with them, too! And if you have other lighting tips and ideas, feel free to leave a comment below.

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