If getting your Christmas tree ready for the season is one of your favorite ways to deck the halls, you’re not alone! In fact, a survey from Christmas Lights Etc. found that putting up the tree and turning the lights on for the first time are in the top five most fun parts of decorating for the holiday. While trimming your tree can certainly be an enjoyable experience, getting lights onto it — and to look the way you want — can be frustrating, especially if you encounter the inevitable tangles, broken bulbs and other tree-decorating hiccups. So we asked holiday decorating pros how to put lights on a Christmas tree and sidestep some of the most common problems that people encounter. Read on for their secrets!
The best lights to put on your Christmas tree
There’s no wrong choice when it comes to what lights to hang on your Christmas tree, and re-using the ones you have in storage will spark joy and save you money. Indeed, a poll of 2,000 adults conducted by Lottoland.co.uk found that 27% of us still use decorations from 50 years ago, and many others continue to use their classic decor on an annual basis. But if you’re looking to replace your current lights or want to mix things up, the experts have some suggestions on what to look for when buying.
Joshua Trees, owner of We Hang Christmas Lights , which creates 25,000 residential Christmas light installations each year in cities across the country, recommends opting for 5-mm “wide angle” mini lights (Buy on Amazon, $12.31 for 17 feet of lights). “They’re more durable and shine more radiant light from different angles.” The result? A gorgeous glowing tree!
Also smart: Consider white LED twinklers if your tree is live. Researchers at the Christmas Tree Research Programme in Nova Scotia found that white LEDs helped real trees retain their needles a whopping 30 to 35 days longer. That’s because white light is closest to the natural spectrum and LEDs emit less heat than incandescent bulbs. (Blue lights were the worst for a fresh tree’s lifespan.)
Tip: Hang glass ornaments near your lights: The light will reflect off the glass, adding a magical glow!
To untangle lights before you begin
If you find your lights in a jumbled mess after pulling them out of storage, try this: To distinguish between each one and separate the jumble with ease, simply plug one strand into an outlet, then follow the lights to untangle that strand from the rest. Repeat with each set until they’re all undone. Having one end of the tangled strand stationary will make it that much easier to unravel the rest. (Keep scrolling for a genius tip to tangle-proof your lights for next year.)
The best ways to put lights on a Christmas tree
Whether you have an artificial tree or a fresh pine, adding lights to your tree can be easier said than done: It’s tough to put lights on a tree in a corner, the strands get tangled as you’re trying to hang them on the branches or the lights aren’t as evenly distributed throughout your tree as you’d like. Below, you’ll find simple solutions to these and other problems that often pop up when trimming your tree.
Tree tucked into a tight corner? Grab a bath mat
If you’re working in a small or cramped area of a room, stringing the lights can be especially tricky. An easy way to make the process a breeze: Put an upside-down bath mat under the tree stand. Then, instead of walking around the tree with the lights, have a second person grip the rug to turn the tree while you hang the lights. The plush rug will make it easy to move the stand on a hard floor, and once the decorations are in place, you can cover the rug with the tree skirt.
Don’t have enough lights? Light your tree vertically
Stringing your lights vertically instead of wrapping them around the tree is not only easy and efficient, it also requires fewer strands of bulbs.
In this video, TikTok user Liz Lovery shows how to do it. Her easy how-to: Begin in a bottom corner of your tree, then string the lights up the tree to the very top, and then back down again. Lovery notes that if any of the lights go out, it’s much easier to change the bulbs or swap the strand.
Lovery got this idea from another TikTok user, Clare Hooper, who used to decorate Christmas trees as a part of her job. She calls the technique “the zig-zag method” and says there’s no need to “waste” lights on the back of the tree. See her in action here:
This trick also makes it easy to replace a strand if the bulbs die. Plus, it prevents tangled cords and makes removing the lights at the end of the season so much easier, says Brandon Stephens of The Décor Group, which decorates 40,000 homes for the holidays in the Irving, Texas, area.
Wires and plugs showing? Try the ‘weaving’ approach
If you string your lights near tips of the branches, the wires (and the plugs of connected lights) are more visible, making your tree look more mundane than magical. To avoid this, change up how you string them. Instead of simply draping the lights across the branches, Trees recommends wrapping the lights close to the trunk and making your way out toward the tips of the branches, tucking the wire and plugs in as you go. “You’ll give it a lot of depth and dimension,” he explains.
“You want a random placement of lights,” explains Stephens. “You can achieve this by ‘weaving’ lights into the greenery, lighting out to the tips, back to the middle of the tree, then to the sides to add depth.”
Tip: When you’re done adding the lights, step back and squint, says Stephens. “Blurring the tree makes the lights pop out, so you can easily see any bald spots or crowding.”
Don’t have a lot of time to spare? Grab a rolling pin
To speed up your decorating time, try this trick from DIY pro Maggie McGaugh on Instagram: With your string of lights wrapped around a rolling pin, simply walk around the tree, holding the handles of the pin. The pin will “unroll” the lights as you go so they get onto your tree’s branches without any hassle. Check it out below!
Tip: Store your lights on the rolling pin at the end of the season, it will make things even easier next year!
Another way to light your tree fast? Use outdoor net lights! (Buy from Amazon, $23.19) “This is probably the easiest idea ever!” shares TikTok user Shannon Doherty in her video on hacks for Christmas tree lights. “Two nets, two seconds, and you’re done!”
See how simple this trick works in the video below (wait for tip #3):
For more on Christmas decorating, keep reading!