Creating a magical glow of lights on an artificial tree isn't difficult, but it demands patience; on a fresh tree, it calls for both patience and a trick of the trade.
Christmas tree lights are either stacked or end to end, also called string to string. Check the boxes of lights before you buy to make sure they're all compatible. You can join more strands with stacked plugs than you can with end-to-end type plugs. Be sure to check the box for the manufacturer's recommendations, however. Usually you can string together three 100-light strands or six 50-light strands.
For a fresh tree, plan for three 100-light sets per tree foot.
For an artificial tree, 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, use about 12 boxes for a 6-foot tree and about 20 boxes for an 8-foot tree. For moderate lighting, use 20 boxes for a 6-foot tree and 30 boxes for an 8-foot tree. For showcase lighting, use 40 boxes and 80 boxes, respectively.
Instead of wrapping the lights around the tree in a maypole dance, mentally divide the tree vertically into three triangular sections.
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 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.
Step back from the tree and look at it with your eyes crossed. Wherever you see dark holes on the tree, rearrange the lights as necessary to fill in. To remove the lights without getting them tangled, simply work in reverse.
The artificial trees available today come in sections that open like an umbrella. If the tree is not pre-lit, use miniature lights to wrap around the branches securely. Attach the lights securely, winding them around as shown below, so that you can leave the lights permanently attached to the tree.
Be sure to light each section of the tree separately. That is, don't cross a section or point of assembly with a strand of lights, or the sections will no longer come apart.
For subdued lighting, 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 to the end of the string. Plug in the next set, and keep going to 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, follow the same procedure, but wrap the cord around some of the greens along the branch as you work back toward the trunk.
For showcase lighting, wrap the cord around every green as you work back along the branch.