How to Hang Christmas Tree Lights

Are you stumped when it comes to stringing your Christmas tree with lights? These easy-to-follow tips will show you how to light your tree -- whether real, artificial, or outdoors -- efficiently and beautifully.


How to Hang Tree Lights on a Fresh Tree

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When hanging tree lights on a fresh tree, you should plan on using three 100-light sets for every foot of your tree's height. Lighting a tree requires patience and our simple steps:

  1. Instead of wrapping the lights around the tree in a maypole style, mentally divide the tree into three triangular sections, from top to bottom, around the tree's cone.
  2. Plug in the first string of lights and nestle the last bulb on the string at the top of the tree next to the trunk. Weave the tree lights back and forth across the triangle, being careful not to cross the cord over itself. When you reach the end of the first string, plug in the next set and continue weaving the lights back and forth until you reach the bottom, connecting no more than 300 lights end to end. Repeat this procedure for the remaining triangles.
  3. Step back from the tree and look at it with your eyes crossed, or squint until the tree is blurry. Wherever you see dark holes on the tree, rearrange the lights as necessary to fill in. To remove the lights without tangling them, work in reverse.

LIGHTING A TREE

How to Hang Tree Lights on an Artificial Tree

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Artificial trees come in sections that open like umbrellas. If you use miniature tree lights, you can wrap them around the branches and leave them on permanently -- just be sure to light each section separately! We recommend using 50-light strands because they are easier to work with as your wrap the tree branches. Bonus: 50-light strands are less likely to burn out or have electrical problems.

Here are three different ways to hang tree lights on your artificial tree:

For Subdued Lighting:

  • Use about 12 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and about 20 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Begin at the bottom of the tree close to the trunk. Allowing some slack or leader cord in the first strand of lights, separate the cord near the first bulb so it forms a loop. Slip the loop over one of the branchlets or greens near the trunk, and wrap the cord a few times around the green to secure it.
  • Pull the string of lights taut to the tip of the branch, then work back toward the trunk, wrapping the cord over itself and the branch.
  • Separate the cord again when you reach the trunk, and slip the cord over a branchlet to secure it. Carry the cord over to the next branch, wrap it around a green near the trunk, and pull it out to the tip. Wrap the cord over itself and the branch as before.
  • Continue wrapping branches in this manner until you come to the end of the string. Plug in the next set, and keep going until you reach the point where the tree comes apart. Work any extra lights back along the branch rather than crossing the section. When you wrap the top section of the tree, don't wrap the lights around as many branches so the tree will look evenly lit from top to bottom.

For Moderate Lighting:

  • Use 20 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and 30 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Follow the same procedure as for subdued lighting, but wrap the cord around some of the greens along the branch as you work back toward the trunk.

For Showcase Lighting:

  • Use 40 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and 80 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Wrap the cord around every green as you work back along the branch.

See what to consider when choosing a fake Christmas tree.

Safety Tips and Considerations When Hanging Tree Lights

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  • Christmas tree lights can either be stacked or end to end, also called string to string. Before buying your tree lights, check the boxes to make sure they're all compatible. By using stacked plugs, you can join more strands than you can with end-to-end plugs.
  • To maximize safety, never plug more than two extension cords together. Instead, buy them in the lengths you need and make sure they can handle the wattage of the bulbs.
  • Make sure the wattages of all the lights you use are the same; this prevents power surges and prolongs the life of the bulbs.
  • Plug in the lights before you remove them from the box so you can see if they work before you put them on the tree.
  • Consider using miniature clear (white) lights for your base lighting, then add strands of the new cool-burning large bulbs for color and variety. Or, add sets of novelty lights, such as flicker-flames, flashing lights, bubble lights, or other shapes.

How to Hang Tree Lights Outdoors

Whether you're trying to have the brightest home on the block or just want to add a bit of seasonal cheer to the trees or shrubs in your front yard, follow these guidelines for lighting outdoor areas.

  • If you use floodlights to show off outdoor evergreens, use white, blue, or green lamps. Red, yellow, amber, and pink lamps will make the trees look a muddy brown.
  • Don't try to hang strings of lights from the eaves with cup hooks -- in a strong wind, the wires may swing loose. Instead, use plastic gutter clips that hook onto the gutter and hold the wire tightly in place. Look for packages of gutter clips in crafts stores and hardware stores near the tree lights and supplies.
  • Be sure you have outdoor electrical sockets to plug into when you use outdoor lights. Don't worry about hiding the electrical cords -- just keep them organized neatly, and no one will notice them.

Creating a magical glow of lights on an artificial tree isn't difficult, but it demands patience.

+ enlarge image Take your time lighting your tree, and you'll be happy with the results.

Artificial trees come in sections that open like an umbrella. If you use miniature lights, you can wrap them around the branches and leave them on permanently. Just be sure to light each section separately (that is, don't cross a section, or point of assembly, with a strand of lights).

Use 50-light strands: the 100-light strands are two 50-light strands wired together, and the 50-light strands are easier to work with as you wrap the tree branches. In addition, the 50-light sets are less likely to burn out or have electrical problems.

For Subdued Lighting:

+ enlarge image Photo 1
  • Use about 12 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and about 20 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Begin at the bottom of the tree close to the trunk. Allowing some slack or leader cord in the first strand of lights, separate the cord near the first bulb so it forms a loop. Slip the loop over one of the branchlets or greens near the trunk, and wrap the cord a few times around the green to secure it.
+ enlarge image Photo 2
  • Pull the string of lights taut to the tip of the branch, then work back toward the trunk, wrapping the cord over itself and the branch.
  • Separate the cord again when you reach the trunk, and slip the cord over a branchlet to secure it. Carry the cord over to the next branch, wrap it around a green near the trunk, and pull it out to the tip. Wrap the cord over itself and the branch as before.
  • Continue wrapping branches in this manner until you come to the end of the string. Plug in the next set, and keep going until you reach the point where the tree comes apart. Work any extra lights back along the branch rather than crossing the section. When you wrap the top section of the tree, don't wrap the lights around as many branches so the tree will look evenly lit from top to bottom.

For Moderate Lighting:

+ enlarge image Photo 3
  • Use 20 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and 30 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Follow the same procedure as for subdued lighting, but wrap the cord around some of the greens along the branch as you work back toward the trunk.

For Showcase Lighting:

  • Use 40 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and 80 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Wrap the cord around every green as you work back along the branch.

Whether you're trying to have the brightest home on the block or just want to add a bit of seasonal cheer to the trees or shrubs in your front yard, follow these guidelines for lighting outdoor areas.

  • If you use floodlights to show off outdoor evergreens, use white, blue, or green lamps. Red, yellow, amber, and pink lamps will make the trees look a muddy brown.
  • Don't try to hang strings of lights from the eaves with cup hooks -- in a strong wind, the wires may swing loose. Instead, use plastic gutter clips that hook onto the gutter and hold the wire tightly in place. Look for packages of gutter clips in crafts stores and hardware stores, near the tree lights and supplies.
  • Be sure you have outdoor electrical sockets to plug into when you use outdoor lights.
  • Don't worry about hiding the electrical cords -- just keep them organized neatly, and no one will notice them.
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