How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree (so it glows!)
Learn how to put lights on your Christmas tree to make it glow beautifully! Get the step-by-step instructions for Christmas tree lighting tips.
Are you wondering how to place a string of lights on a Christmas tree beautifully? These easy-to-follow tips will show you how to put lights on your artificial Christmas tree.
I will help you create your best holiday tree yet with these easy holiday decorating ideas. I’ve even got tips for adding lights to a real tree at the end!
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So many artificial trees come pre-lit, but I prefer to put my own lights on a tree. That way when you put your tree up and a light strand doesn’t work, it’s not that big of a deal.
You just run to the store and buy a new strand or two.
I love sharing about all things Christmas decor! I’ve shared all about the best artificial Christmas trees, how to decorate a bedroom for Christmas and how to decorate with Christmas ribbon. My hope is that these articles give you inspiration to create a home you love for the holidays!
✅ Do you still need to buy lights for your tree?? Grab some HERE! These lights are perfect and come with a 4.6-star rating!
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The Best Way to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree
Let’s take a minute to learn how I get my Christmas tree to glow without looking like it’s a big old ball of lights. I wasn’t going to share it because I feel like everyone knows this already. But I am always learning new, simple tricks from people, so I’m sure there’s someone out there who will benefit from this.
When I was growing up, I remember taking a strand of lights and walking it around the tree in a circle. I would simply rest the lights on each layer of tree branches and call it a day!
But as I got older, I realized there was a better way! It involved wrapping each individual branch with lights! Duh!
Not only did I get the glow I was hoping for, it made the lights disappear into the branches of the tree. Win/win!
1. Buy More Lights Than You Think You’ll Need
This way of hanging Christmas lights is really simple, but it makes you use way more lights than you think you’ll need. So, just get extra twinkle lights, OK? Keep the receipts and return any extra lights you don’t need.
The rule of thumb is 100 lights per 1 foot, so if you have a 9 foot tree like me, you’ll need 900 lights.
2. Check to See if the Lights Work
Before putting lights on the tree, make sure they work. And leave them on while you put them on the tree so you can see how it’s going!
3. Weave the Lights up and Down Each Branch, Starting from the Bottom of the Tree
Weave the lights up and down each side of the branch from trunk to tip. You’ll start by running the lights to the middle of the tree, then along each branch. Once you’ve done one branch, move on to the next branch, until you reach the top of the tree!
Start at the bottom of the tree! Think of it as building your tree light foundation a little at a time. Put the first section of your tree in and work one branch at a time. This will help keep all of the string lights easy to manage.
It’s kind of hard to make out in that picture, so I drew a little line with arrows showing how I do it…
You go up one side and down the other, until you reach the top of the tree.
Yes, it may seem like overkill, but when your tree literally sparkles and glows from the lights, you will love it!
4. Step Back Frequently
Take a step back to assess your branches at frequent intervals. This will help you see how the tree is coming along and makes sure you don’t have any empty spots!
5. Use an Extension Cord or Power Strip
Don’t string 18 – 50 light strands together. It’s just too much.
I will string maybe 3-4 strands together and then run them down the back of the tree to my extension cord or power strip. I’ve tried to put too many strands together and it’ll blow the fuse on one of them and cause all kinds of headaches.
6. Use Smart Plugs on Your Outlet
In recent years I’ve discovered the magic of smart plugs for my Christmas trees! Even if you have a pre-lit tree, this time is gold. No more crawling behind the tree to turn off the Christmas tree lights at the outlet every night.
These smart plugs (or smart power strips) connect to a free app on your smart phone. You can program the plugs to turn on at a certain time each day and turn off again. I absolutely love waking up in the morning and walking into the living room with the glowing lights already on. It ups the holiday magic, for sure!
And now you have a beautifully glowing Christmas tree! It’s so simple, and yet I know people who don’t know this, so I hope it helps!
When the lights are done this way, they aren’t nearly as noticeable, either! Especially if you are used to just wrapping the tree like a mummy. Then all you see are the lights and not the pretty branches! This way the tree literally glows from the inside.
Isn’t it so pretty?
I hope this helps your tree to glow beautifully this holiday season!
Frequently Asked Questions
The rule of thumb is 100 lights per every foot of tree. So if you have a 9 foot tree like me, you’ll need 900 light bulbs.
Always start stringing your lights at the bottom!
Definitely put lights on the tree first, before any ribbons or ornaments. I share more about the order of decorating a tree in my how to decorate a Christmas tree post.
You can use the same method to string lights on a real tree. You just don’t have the defined branches on a real tree. So, a simple way to get the full light effect is to push the strand toward the trunk of the tree, then weave it back out to the tips of the branches. You may want to use gloves to protect your hands!
Use green wire lights with 50 to 100 bulbs per string. These will be comfortable to handle and will blend in with your green branches. Mini lights will help your tree achieve the glow effect we’re going for!
Incandescent bulbs give the traditional warm white glow while LED bulbs are brighter and a little more harsh. But LED pose fewer safety risks since they don’t get hot like an incandescent bulb. Tip: turn off Christmas lights while you’re away from the house so there’s less risk.
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I want to try putting lights on my Tree the way you do – do you have any videos showing this? ( maybe on Youtube ? )
Interesting method!! Will have to give it an attempt next year!
OK… I’m 64 years old so I’ve decorated a few trees over the years and I did NOT know this. I’ve been winding the lights around the tree for years and now I’m thinking how could I not have heard of this before! Thanks for updating an ol’ gal! 😉
We do similar but colored lights more in the center and white lights on the out side, it adds some dimension to it!
I totally do not understand either the written directions or the photo. I LOVE the way the tree looks and WANT to understand how to do it.
Could you possibly attempt an additional explanation here in the comments section?
Hi Lavaida, You basically just wrap each whole branch in lights in order to get the maximum shine! 🙂
Years ago I was the manager of the Trim-a-Home department in Macys. It was my first job as a manager, I was 22 and a total novice. They sent in a team of professional Christmas tree decorators- yes there was such a thing! They taught me how to light a tree this way and I’ve never done it any other way since. It brings light and depth to the tree, the wires don’t interfere with hanging ornaments, and the results will always look great. They also taught me to hang ornaments into the branches as well so it doesn’t look like someone just sprinkled everything on the edges.
do you start from the bottom up or from the top down?
Years ago, I remember watching Martha Stewart decorate her tree this way. That was the first time I saw anyone do it this way
I’ve never heard of putting on lights like that. My parents always wrapped the tree with one strand of lights. Haha. I will try this method this year! Thanks for sharing!
Can you do this method on a real tree? They’ve usually got more branches and the branches aren’t standard sizes?
Hey Sallie! You may have already tried it by now, but I think it would work similarly. It might be harder to get them completely even, but I think you could try to just run them in and out of the tree instead of just around the outside. 🙂
How many lights do you use doing it this way? I think I may have done it wrong or something because it had me using 1000 on my 9ft tree and the top 1/3 needs done still. I think I need about 150-200 more.
So doing this way do you stay with the 100 per foot “rule” or do you go up in number some? Thanks
I have always run my lights that way and it does give it a special glow! Just takes a little longer to do it but worth it when you flip the lights on! Love your blog!!
Hi, the hardest thing re interior decor is getting started. Too many other things to do!
I had never heard this way of putting the lights on – so glad you shared! We always wrapped the lights around and around, like a mummy. I’m going to try your way this year. THanks so much!
Yay! I’m so glad I shared it, then. 🙂 Happy decorating!
Where did you get the cute wagon pillow next to your tree. It is adorable!
Hi Terri, I meant to put a link in there, because I knew someone would ask. 😉 Here you go! (affiliate link)