Putting lights on a Christmas Tree, for some is a laborious chore. The act of going around and around, trying to get the lights evenly placed can wear you down.
For 10 years, I decorated Christmas Trees for the Albany Institute of History and Art’s FESTIVAL of TREES. The easy way that I put lights on those trees, I am going to cover here.
Step 1 ..Depending on how wide / full your tree is, artificial or real, divide it into fourths (quadrants). Think front, two sides, and back. If your tree is really wide, divide it into fifths or even sixths.
Step 2 ..Take an extension cord, and run it from your wall outlet to a space close to the back center of your tree.
Putting Lights on the Front of the Tree ..Step 3 ..Plug your first set of lights into the extension cord, and work the lights from the back of the tree to the tree’s Front Bottom, quadrant 1. Only working on the front quadrant, start stringing your lights in and out of the branches, zigzagging back and forth, slowly working to the tree’s top. As needed, add a second or even third set of lights to the end of the set you just placed on the tree, until you completely light that one side. Follow the instructions on the lighting package, as to how many sets of light you can connect end-to-end. There are only so many sets of lights that can be connected end-to-end at one time without causing the fuses in the plugs to blow. The reason for this is because the electrical wires between the lights are thin, and can’t take the strain of trying to pull too much electricity through all those feet of cord.
Have your lights lit when placing them on the tree, that way you can easily see that they are evenly distributed.
Step 4 ..When it comes to putting lights on the sides and back of your tree (quadrants 2, 3, and 4), insert the first plug of the first string of lights for that side, into the first plug that you initially added to the electrical lead, when you started putting lights on the front of the tree (look at the illustration). You can plug many plugs, one into the other, within reason, because the electrical current is going from plug to plug, and coming off of a thick extension cord, not going through the thin wire of the light sets.
Place your lights on the sides and back, as you did on the front of the tree. Work your lights way into the branches to light the center of the tree, and zigzag upward to the top.
Putting Different Colors of Lights on your Tree ..Over the 10 year period, that I decorated trees for the Albany Institute of History and Art, I created many different theme trees. On many of those trees I put colored lights. By colored lights, I mean trees completely lit in Green, Gold, Red, Blue, etc. Any of the just mentioned colored lights can be overpowering, too bright, and even sickening by themselves, if not combined with clear / white lights. The clear / white lights cut the intensity of the solid colored lights, and give the eye a place to rest.
When I decorated trees for the AIHA, I would first cover the trees in the colored lights, then I would add 1/4 to 1/2 more clear / white lights loosely strong over the tree. If I put 8 sets of colored lights on the tree, I would then put 3 or 4 sets of clear / white lights over them.
When Shopping for / putting lights on your tree, don’t be afraid to mix different sizes and shapes of lights together. Put Old Fashioned large colored lights with small Modern clear / white lights. If you are into all clear / white lights, get some sets in different sizes. Just don’t have the same amount of each size on the tree. Think 3/4 big and 1/4 small, or 2/3 small and 1/3 big.
Finally ..When the holiday period is over, and it is time to take down your tree, start by unplugging the top most plug (see the illustration (it is the plug for the back of the tree #4). That set of lights will be the first set to take off.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! I hope this post helps make your holiday decorating a little easier.
Christmas Tree Decorating…Step by Step, Like a Pro11-13-2011,
How to Decorate a Christmas Tree with Tulle 10-20-2012,
It’s Easy to Make a Tulle Christmas Wreath 11-8-2012,
Make a NO TIE Bow for your Christmas Wreath 12-8-2011,
It’s EASY to FLUFF a Fake / Artificial Christmas Wreath 11-30-2011,
Cutting / Making Paper Snowflakes 10-27-2011,
Turn your Paper Snowflake into a Snowflake Snowman 12-14-2011,
Make some Animals from Cut Paper Snowflakes 12-19-2011
A paper craft project for kids, Make a Christmas Tree out of your Name 11-18-2011,
Some Outdoor Christmas Decorations that you can leave up ALL Winter 11-26-2011,
How to Make a Pine Cone Christmas Wreath 10-29-2015,
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at Whimsey Hill House. A look at some of my 2015 Holiday Decorations 12-14-2015.
(Unrelated, but Really Popular Interior Decorating Posts)
Arranging Living Room Furniture, so Sofas talk to Chairs, like the Pros do 9-7-2012,
Arranging Furniture TWELVE different ways in the Same Room 9-15-2012,
When Buying Living Room Furniture FORGET the Loveseat, buy two Wing, Club or Occasional Chairs instead 10-13-2012,
The Right Way to hang Curtains and Drapes 5-3-2011,
Matching the Right shape End Table with a Table Lamp 1-12-2014
Never thought of adding white lights to the color strings. I don’t care for the blue-tone of the new LEDs, however…those are too bright.
Maybe the LED lights are better for outside, where they don’t have to be viewed for too long. I remember my Mother doing a gold tree, after seeing a gold lit tree at a historical society. That tree was grand in a mansion, that we did not have to view for too long, but when it was in our living room, that was another story. The gold tree lasted for one holiday season, and we never had to look at that again. When I decorated the gold tree, I knew to cut the GOLD with white. Maybe LED lights, cut with white would also improve the look. I add white / clear lights to everything that I put lights on, be it inside, or out.
Thanks for sharing this post. It seems like such a “duh” thing, but I needed the post. I was not going to put up my tree this year because of the time involved in adding the lights. I used your tips and about an hour later, I was finished! Thanks a bunch!
Hi Auburnchick, Glad to have been of help. From seeing the numbers, for people looking at Putting Lights on a Christmas Tree, You are just one of MANY people with that problem. Merry Christmas to you, and have a Happy New Year 2012. Don’t be a stranger, and tell your friends about my site.
Hi everyone at Pinterest.com Thank you all..Danna Farr and Melissa Bolton, Nathalie Hall, Erica Boehm, Laura Bell-burkett, Beth Bouchard, Cindy Brown, and Allie Moore. Hope your Christmas is Merry and Bright, now that you got your Lights on your Christmas Trees ;-}
Found your site through Pinterest!! Thank you for sharing this – we struggle every year to get the lights on right.
Merry Christmas to you & yours!
Hi there LisainLouKY…I’ve got a lot of traffic through the Pinterest group, BUT you are the first of the bunch to comment. How nice of you to do so. You know, I have other articles that could be pinned on Pinterest. Fifty Five in all, so take a look at the topics i wrote about in the past. Just scroll down the page to the end, click on older posts (bottom left), and it will get you to earlier articles. Even if you don’t read any of the articles, you can look at all the pictures I’ve drawn, collages I’ve made, and photos I’ve took. Merry Christmas to you, and Have a Happy 2012 ;-}
I found this article very helpful! Thank you for the tips!
I’m glad to be of service to one of Santa’s helpers. Hopefully you will tell some other Elves of my site. Merry Christmas, try to get some rest after Santa’s BIG NIGHT ;-}
I have a beautiful prelite tree but the lights are so bright! Any suggestions?
Hi LuAnn. There is no real way to turn down the lights that I know. You could try putting garland, bulbs, etc on the tree in front of the lights, here and there, to block some of the light. Is there any way you can bend the lights /tips of branches backward, in spots, without damaging them, to direct the light inward toward the tree’s center? Thanks for the question, Merry Christmas and Happy 2012.
What kind of extension cord are you using in the picture? Is there one that stands up like that? What is it called and where can I find it?
Hi there Vicki, I just use the everyday white extension cord that I think comes in 6 or 9 feet length that you can buy at Home Depot, Lowe’s, WalMart, etc. The illustration is really to show you how to piggy back many plugs, versus running them end to end. At my mother’s house, where she has two different colors of lights to work with (one year it is red and green with white/clear, the second option is blue and green with clear) I put all the red and green or blue and green on one extension cord, and all the white/clear ones on another, so she has the option of having a, let’s say, red and green lit tree, a white/clear lit tree, or all the lights lit at once (reg,green and clear). I hope this note was of help, Merry Christmas Happy 2013.
Followed your method for Putting Lights on a Christmas Tree the easy way. Turned out to make a huge difference. Thanks so much for the tip!
Happy New Year 2013 pbmgarden, I think I made a difference on tens of thousands of people’s Christmas trees since I posted the article.
Hi there Cyndi, I just read the post which I wrote a few years ago, and I can’t think of anything extra to add to it. The way you put lights on the front, then sides of the tree, is the same way you put them on the back. I would say, just start by putting on a few sets of lights on the front of the tree, and in a few minutes you will get the knack of doing it and the rest will be tree decorating history. The Happiest of Holidays to you, and thanks for your comment ;-}
I’m unsure about the zig-zagging back and forthwith the lights. My tree is pretty full, with branches that criss cross and tangle. Should i try to wrap the strand around branches or just kind of …lay them in the branches?
Happy 2015 to you Jen, just saw your message. You probably have your tree decorated, and in a few days you will most likely be taking it down. I would say in the future, go in and out of the branches, and zig-zag back and forth as you work up to the tree’s top.
If you go bottom to top what do you do in the event you have “extra” lights at the top? When you say “zig zag” do you mean wrapping the branch out from and to the trunk with lights?
Hi there Ann, You can zigzag up the outside of the tree, or/and you can go into the branches if you like. If you get to the top and there are some light left, work them to either side, or down the tree again. The premise of this blog is to inspire, buy my readers have to play with the product a bit, not take everything soo seriously:-} Good luck with the lights, I know after a few tries, you will be a pro at placing them. Merry Christmas and Happy 2016 to you!
Hi there, what a great post! I’m glad to have run onto it, and also have a quick question about LED lights. I love the look of multicolored LEDs on my tree, but they make the greenery look black. Incandescents (white or colored) don’t have this problem, but they also lack the color you get with LEDs. What can I do to have them on the tree, but keep them from making the greenery look so dark? We weave them in with white incandescents currently, about 50/50, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Thanks and happy holidays!
Hi there M.H. I’m not a lighting expert, just a person who has (for 10 years, years ago) decorated a lot of trees for the Festival of Trees at the Albany Institute of History and Art, in Albany, NY. I’ve never used the LED lights, and even when my lights go bad, I just buy the regular lights. I wonder if the LED lights are better for outdoor lighting, versus using inside. Sorry I can’t help you with your problem, but hopefully a person at a garden center, or the lighting department at a big box store, can help you with your issue. Happy Holidays to You.
You should do a YouTube tutorial 😄
Pingback: The RIGHT Way to Decorate the Christmas Tree - Raised Southern
We’re definitely lighting our tree as you suggested. We usually purchase an eleven or twelve foot tree and putting on the lights take forever!! Thank you for the information.
Hi there Patrice, Happiest of Christmas and 2016, and this year have FUN decorating your tree ;-}
Thank you soon much for the wonderful idea of adding different sized lights to tree! I love the old bigger lights we all used as kids! Brings back alot of beautiful memories!!! 🎄👍
Hi there Carol, I feel there was a romance to the size and colors of the large Christmas tree lights of the past. Today, even if I see larger lights there is something about their color that I don’t remember seeing in the 1960’s. These days people have soo many choices, and trees are lit by many more lights than I remember in the past. I think we had 3 sets of large lights with reflectors and that was it. I still have the reflectors from the 1950’s and maybe someday I will do something with them. My aunt Anna and Uncle Micky had bubblers on their tree, Do you remember seeing those kinds of lights? My Grandmother had Christmas bulbs that had cardboard hangers, as during the second World War, they had to use all medals for the war effort. I also remember that those bulbs were a colored glass, versus having any kind of metallic product in them. Happy Christmas and the best of everything in 2016.
Yes there is a way to dim those bright lights. My husband bought a dimmer and I can just turn them down very low or however you like. Works great! Think he bought it at Ace.
Sam, THANKS for your remedy for dimming too bright Christmas Lights. Happy Christmas and 2016 to you and your family ;-}
Pingback: TOP 35+ Festive Christmas tree decorations ideas
Thank you for your help, this was great. It took us hours before to light the tree. Merry Christmas.
Paula Merry Christmas to you also.
Thanks for your tips. Its a while until Christmas so I’ll have to bookmark your site. Thanks again – Bill
Hi there Mr. Bill, I think this is the perfect time to think Christmas, on QVC today I’m seeing Christmas in July sales :-}
Brilliant! I recently found this site and am in love. You provide useful information and I love your writing style. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Hi there Tiffany, all I can say is Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and the best in 2017, glad you’ve been inspired!
Thanks for your delightful blog! I am clueless about decorating and have discovered many helpful articles. Your writing style makes it a pleasure to read!
Hi there Platonista, thanks for your comment, and i hope my post on putting lights on the Christmas tree was helpful. Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to you ;-}
Thank you for this great idea. I am only five feet tall and I placed the lights without a ladder on a 7.5′ tree. If you ever update this site, please mention to put the lights in and out toward the tree trunk as you zigzag. 💜💜🎄🎄💜💜
Hi there Sophia, glad to have inspired you. As for tucking the lights into the branches, I would think people would do that as they zigzag them up the sides of the tree. If they did not figure that out, and if they read your comment to me, your comment will be inspiring to them. Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to you ;-}
Thank you for sharing this information about an easier way to string lights on a Christmas tree. I will forever be grateful to you. I am a perfectionist, and all these years I have struggled with stringing the lights on the tree in a traditional manner…round and round the tree. Sometimes, it would take me days to string the lights! This year, I felt a burden lifted using your model for stringing the lights because it IS easy, and they look great! Thank you for sharing your expertise and wisdom. I have benefitted and am grateful to you!
Hi there A.Scott, yours was the most grateful comment anyone has ever written to me on this blog. Glad to be of service…I hope you have the happiest Christmas ever and a fabulous 2017. I too have that perfectionist way about me. Being artistic, I want the visual picture to be right, be it the Christmas decorations, the decorating of my home, the garden or even my way of dressing.
Thank you for such a kind response, and THANK YOU for the help, the effects of which will last for many more years to come!
Are you zig-zagging from the outside in towards the trunk or are you keeping the lights at about the same depth in the tree and zig-zagging from side to side. The first way would give depth but a thin strip of lights from bottom to top, the second way would give broad coverage but no variation in depth. It seem like it would be difficult to accomplish both without the old tedious method of weaving the lights along each branch in and out as you move around the tree.
Hi there Scott, I run the lights across the ends of the branches and work them into the branches for depth as well. I start at the bottom of the tree working side to side, and in and out, and zig-zag up the tree. Remember I just put the lights on one fourth of the tree at a time, not trying to go round and round. Merry Christmas and Happy 2017.
Thanks for your reply and your long dedication to following up on your post. I did the tree from bottom to top in thirds. I still did some of the weaving along the length of each branch in toward the trunk and back out again while also working back and forth from side to side of the third I was working on (I just like the wires somewhat tight against the branch). It worked out great. Much faster and it was nice to not be on knees for the first hour like I always have been when working all the way around the tree from bottom to top, I’m sold on this method.
Hi there Scott, glad it worked out for you in the end. Did you look at my Christmas Decorations yet, if you have a moment take a look. Now that the lights are just right, the rest of your holiday decorating will hopefully be a cinch ;-}
I can’t wait to give this a try! Thank you so much for sharing your tricks. Hopefully I’ll be able to look around the rest of your site soon!
Hi there Melissa, Happy Tree Lighting to you. If you have a moment look at the companion posts, after the article, there are other Christmas related topics that I’ve written that might inspire you. Happy 2017!
May I just say what a relief to uncover someone who truly knows
what they are discussing on the internet. You certainly
understand how to bring an issue to light and make it
important. A lot more people ought to look at this and understand this side
of your story. I can’t believe you aren’t more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.