4 Ways To Hang Lights On A Christmas Tree

Whether you’re after speed or lots of light, there’s a tree-trimming solution for just about everyone.

Couple Stringing Lights on Christmas Tree
Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

You've picked out the perfect fresh-cut Christmas tree—one that's vibrant green, fragrant, and filled with beefy branches to hang all your precious heirloom ornaments. Besides watering the tree, the next big task you'll have on your plate is decorating it. Tinsel, ribbons, and garland will spruce up any ornamented evergreen, but draping and weaving lights throughout the branches will truly help your tree sparkle. But how do you hang lights that create a sparkly Christmas tree without turning the task into a daylong project? In this tree lighting guide, we'll show you different ways to hang lights and how to get started.

Get Organized and Have a Plan

Before you start lighting your tree, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure you have enough lights—experts recommend 100 lights per foot of tree; if you want a lighter-lit tree use 50 per foot; and if you want an extremely bright tree, use 150 to 200 lights per foot. Second, grab extension cords if your tree is located away from an outlet and a step ladder to help hang lights toward the top of the tree. Third, complete the tedious chore of untangling lights and checking that each and every twinkling bulb works. Finally, you'll need to decide which way to hang lights on your tree because there are several ways to do it—horizontally, vertically, triangular, and branch wrapping—each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Learn more about each approach and then decide which way is right for your Christmas tree.

How to Hang Tree Lights Horizontally

You're probably accustomed to randomly wrapping lights around your tree, starting at the base and working your way up. Make sure not to place the lights in a straight line but more of a wave or an "S" shape, which looks more natural and provides more coverage. As you circle the tree, you can add more depth to your lighting by pushing lights deeper into some of the branches or wrapping some of the branches as you go. When you add a new strand, hide the unsightly plugs deep into the tree. You should have a female plug when done, to which you can plug in your lighted tree topper or hide it in branches behind other tree trimmings. This is one of the most familiar and faster methods to hang lights.

How to Hang Tree Lights Vertically

Instead of hanging lights side to side, try stringing them up and down from the top of the tree to the bottom. Hanging Christmas lights vertically is a relatively fast method, and it's easier to remove vertical lights when it's time to take down your tree. To hang lights vertically, take the end of the strand without the plug (you can hide this end in the branches, or you could connect it to a tree topper later). Starting at the top of the tree, let the lights cascade down to the bottom and drape the strand in an "S" shape down the front. Position the lights toward the tips of the branches so no bulb will be blocked by the fluffy needles. When you've reached the bottom, start working the strand back up the tree in the same "S" shape. Leave three to four inches between the vertical rows of lights so they're spread evenly throughout. Repeat the top-to-bottom process until the entire tree is flooded with lights. The vertically-hung lights will remain on the tips of the branches, as opposed to being hidden on the inside. As you hang your last strand, make sure the plug is at the bottom near an outlet or power cord.

How to Hang Tree Lights in Triangle Sections

Break hanging tree lights down into triangular sections and weave lights within each triangle. This method takes longer than hanging lights horizontally or vertically, but it's satisfying to complete sections as you go and move on to the next section. Also, you can gauge how much light coverage you have in the section you're working in more easily. To use the triangle method, section your tree into three triangles (though it can be fewer or more depending on the size of your tree). Then you can either create a triangular outline with your lights and then weave them within the triangle shape, or you can weave them from top to bottom in a triangle shape, either way, try not to overlap strings. Repeat with the remaining sections.

How to Hang Tree Lights by Wrapping Branches

Wrapping individual branches takes the most time of all light-hanging methods, but it will also create the brightest tree if that's the look you want to achieve. Starting at the bottom, wrap lights around each branch from the inside out. Wrap branches as you work your way around the tree from the bottom to the top. This method packs the tree densely with lights, keeps the cords in the back, and lights it more evenly and brightly. However, wrapping branches will require more time and more light strands.

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to string lights, as long as you're following the necessary safety precautions. But even Southern traditionalists can appreciate unique decorating tips that will help to elevate the tree and all its festive trimmings.

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