During the Christmas season, it's wonderful to pass houses with majestic trees in the living room window, decked out in lights, garland, and ornaments. Decorating a Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition for many households, even though Christmas tree decorating as we know it now didn't gain popularity in America until the late 19th century. Early decorations were mostly homemade ornaments and brightly dyed popcorn garlands, but today's decorations include everything from souvenir ornaments to vinyl records and -- of course -- lots of twinkling lights.
Not sure how you want to decorate? Follow our three easy steps for decorating a Christmas tree.
The first step in how to decorate a Christmas tree is adding the lights. Tree lights typically come on green or white wire strands; choose the strand color that matches your tree so the wire will be hidden. Illuminating your Christmas tree from the inside out will give it the most dynamic look. Start at the base of the trunk and work your way up, wrapping lights around every major branch, moving from the trunk to the tip and back.
Here are four popular types of lights to choose from when decorating a Christmas tree.
Traditional incandescent lights: These Christmas tree lights, which come in a variety of sizes and colors, are the most popular type of tree lights. They warm up the branches of a real tree, which will release the scent of pine into the room.
LED lights: These Christmas tree lights are newer than the traditional incandescent lights and don't produce heat. They're typically more expensive, but they are flameproof, fireproof, and completely safe to decorate a Christmas tree with.
Globe lights: These Christmas tree lights are round and come in many sizes. They look like balls of color on the tree, and while they have a softer glow than mini lights, the light they produce covers a larger area on the tree.
Bubble lights: These retro lights stand straight up on the limbs of your Christmas tree. When the liquid tube on top of the light warms up, bubbles float up and down inside the tube, resembling lava lamps.
Experiment with different lighting schemes until you find one you like -- it's OK to mix and match lights. For example, a background of white or clear lights can be highlighted with strands of colored lights that wrap the outer areas of the tree.
There are no firm rules for decorating a Christmas tree when it comes to draping garland. To avoid branches bulging between tightly cinched garland strands, start at the top of the tree, and slowly increase the amount of garland between each wave as you work your way down the branches. Plan to use about two strands of garland for every vertical foot of tree.
To avoid a busy look on your tree, decorate your Christmas tree with a variety of garlands from plain to fancy. Thin, beaded garlands look best hung from branch to branch; thicker paper, ribbon, or foil garlands look best wrapped loosely around the entire tree.
The next step in decorating a Christmas tree is to hang your Christmas ornaments. To showcase your favorites, place them in prime positions on the tree first. Next, hang your larger ornaments, spacing them evenly around the tree. Fill in around those ornaments with medium- and small-size ornaments. Be sure to hang some ornaments closer to the trunk to create depth and interest. Finish dressing the tree by adding specialty items, such as clip-on ornaments or icicles.
See our ideas for easy ways to make Christmas ornaments that add a personal touch to your tree: