How to Hang Lights on a Christmas Tree

Three Methods:Getting StartedGoing Top to BottomWrapping the Branches

Decorating a Christmas tree is one of the most exciting things that one can do during the winter season – besides opening presents, of course. Dressing up the tree is a bonding experience that should be shared with the whole family. Now, where does the decorating begin you ask? With the lights of course!

Method 1
Getting Started

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    Plug the lights in to make sure that each bulb works. If a few don’t, try tightening them – they may not be broken after all. Once you’re confident they work, unravel them. This way you don’t spend minutes unraveling what you don’t use.
    • Spend a couple of minutes tinkering with them, and then if they still don’t work, throw them out. If you don’t, you’ll just give yourself a headache.
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    Make sure that you have enough lights to reach an outlet and light your entire tree. You’ll need one 100-light set for every foot of your tree’s height, not accounting for the distance away from the outlet. That number is for a moderately-lit tree; if you like the sparse look or want to go more "sunshine explosion," you may need fewer or more lights.
    • You should only plug two or three sets together, so make sure to account for that in your length, too. As always, it's better to have more than you need than not enough. Has anyone ever muttered the words, "There are just too many lights on that Christmas tree?"
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    Get an extension cord or power strip. Let’s say your tree is 7 feet (2.1 m) tall. If you need 100 lights per every foot, that’s 700 lights, or 7 100-light sets. As mentioned above, you should only plug in 2 or 3 sets to each other (for safety). If your extension cord isn’t enough, consider getting a splitter or a power strip to accommodate all your strings.
    • We'll be wrapping your tree from top to bottom (or bottom to top, depending on your method) instead of the standard around and around. This generally makes it easier to place your power strip or extension cord in one place and not worry about it.

Method 2
Going Top to Bottom

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    Mentally divide the tree into three triangles. Back in the days of yore, parents and children wrapped their tree around and around, passing the cord from one set of hands to another. While you’re more than welcome to this method to keep tradition alive, a more efficient way is to wrap from top to bottom, only tackling one side at a time.
    • For the record, this works best if you’re only dealing with one main color of lights. Otherwise, you may need more strands of your second color to balance your tree's overall look.
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    Take the first string of lights in your hands. Nestle the very last bulb at the top of the tree. Pick a side of the tree that you’re going to work on, and mentally map out the triangle in your mind. This is where you’ll be weaving the lights back and forth, left and right.
    • This is generally easier to do starting at the top. This way if you run out, you can easily connect it towards the bottom nearer your outlet, and camouflage it in the thickness at the bottom of your tree.
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    Start weaving the lights back and forth. Make a zigzag pattern starting from the top, weaving as tightly as you see fit. Make sure each section is nestled in the tree and unmoving. Try to keep the same distance between "layers" of lights so the tree is evenly lit.
    • You may want to sort of wrap the lights around the branches, putting the branch through the loop in the strand (most light sets are made up of several different strands you can separate). This ensures the lights stay in place and don't get camouflaged behind the shrubbery.
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    Work your way down to the bottom. When you hit the end of a strand, plug in the next set and continue weaving. However, it’s best to not connect more than 3 sets or so, mainly for safety purposes.
    • If you run out, you have two options: start back up at the top and make a looser weave, or just connect another strand. If you have extra at the bottom, you can start on the next side of the tree (the second triangle you mapped out) and cover the bottom on that side that will inevitably be formed with the next string of lights.
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    Repeat on the other two sides. Now that you’ve got some practice for this new and improved method, sides two and three may be even better. Repeat going from top to bottom, weaving left to right in the same manner as before. Try to keep the weave similar on all sides.
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    Plug in the lights into an electrical outlet once you are done applying them to the tree. If you plug them in beforehand, they’ll heat up and be too hot to the touch. Take a look at a job well done. If it’s not perfect, adjust it as necessary.
    • You can now add other decorations, like ornaments, to the tree and place any presents that you have under the tree. Et voila! Not only is it beautiful, but it'll be easier to take down later, too.

Method 3
Wrapping the Branches

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    If you have an artificial tree, take it apart. This method is much easier to do with an artificial tree as you can disassemble it and get at the “roots” of the branches. However, if you want a more illuminated tree and you have a real tree, it’s possible – it’s just more work.
    • Put all the branches in front of you, categorized by where they go on the tree. You'll be starting with the branches that line the bottom.
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    Put in the very bottom row of branches and light them up and down on each branch. Putting in only the bottom row makes it easier to line each branch with lights. Start at the base of one branch, wrap up to its tip, and back down to its root. Keep doing this around each branch on the bottom.
    • Make sure the lights stay on the sides of the branch by really nestling them in there, or taking the strand and forming into a loop that you can place around the greens. Make sure the strands are snug on the tree and press them together if need be. The beauty of the artificial tree is that it's totally mold-able.
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    Assemble the middle of the tree, using the same method. Once every branch on the bottom is lined up and down, assemble the next level of the tree. Then, take your strand and move it up to the next set of branches, weaving back and forth like you just did, up and down, moving around and around.
    • If you notice the lights are coming loose, you can wrap them around the branch, too. However, this takes a bit more of the length of the set, and you may be short at the top (unless you have plenty of lights to spare).
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    Keep moving up to the top, lighting up and down and back and forth to illuminate the tree. As the tree gets smaller and smaller, you’ll need fewer lights. Unless you want it brighter at the top, make sure you’re using the same ratio of lights as you did on the bottom.
    • As the tree gets thinner and thinner, your lighting work will be more and more visible. Take extra time toward the top to make sure your tree is as beautiful as possible.
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    Step back, take a look, and modify as necessary. If some branches seem dimmer or brighter than others, adjust the lights as necessary, bringing them out to pop or nestling them in to be a bit dimmer. You may need to adjust the placement of the branches, too – the one obstacle of the artificial tree.
    • Make sure to test your lights in all different forms of lighting. Turn your house lights off and look at the tree; then, turn the house lights on. Experiment with all the settings on your strands if applicable, and take a minute to refine it to your tastes. It'll be worth it – this is the centerpiece of Christmas after all.


  • When selecting lights to put on your tree, you should pick a selection of colors that will really light up the room.
  • When selecting a Christmas tree, you don't want to select a tree that is too bare. No one wants to be looking at bare branches with lights on it.


  • Don't plug too many lights into the same outlet. The outlet might blow and start a fire!
  • When hanging the lights on the tree, be careful of the needles on the tree. The needles can be quite pointy!

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Categories: Christmas Trees