One of the best things about the Christmas season is driving or walking through neighborhoods and catching glimpses of festive Christmas trees in living room windows, decked out in lights, garlands, and ornaments. Decorating a Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition in 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 and handmade kids' crafts to lots of twinkling lights.
Not sure how you want to decorate your tree this year? We have plenty of Christmas tree theme ideas, along with handmade ornament ideas that let you put a personal touch on your holiday decor. Once you've found your inspiration, follow our three easy steps for decorating a Christmas tree like a pro.
Getting a dazzling holiday tree doesn't have to be hard work. All it takes is an understanding of how the elements work together and a few easy-to-follow tips from our tree-decorating pros. Break down the task into the three steps below and you'll end up with a Christmas tree that looks like it was decorated professionally!
The first step in how to decorate a Christmas tree is adding the lights. Tree lights typically come on green or white wire strands, though you can also find black variations now, perfect if you happen to have a black Christmas tree. 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 Christmas lights to choose from when decorating your tree.
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.
See our complete guide to putting lights on your Christmas tree for even more info on how to design your perfect tree lighting scheme.
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.
If you're still in need of a garland, consider making one this holiday season! If you love a traditional look, make a cranberry garland that blends cranberries with slices of fresh lime, this wrapping paper garland, or this boiled wool felt garland that's a twist on the classic popcorn garland. If contemporary is more your thing, try the wood bead garland shown above, this sophisticated crepe paper garland, or this easy DIY pom-pom garland.
Ribbon is also a popular alternative to a garland. Loosely wrap wide, patterned ribbon around the entire tree in horizontal bands. To add interest, try making big bows from similar ribbon and using them to decorate the tree branches. To amp it up, use ribbon vertically on the tree, creating cascading streams of ribbon from the top of your tree to the base, tucking the ends under your tree topper and securing around the trunk at the base.
The final step in decorating your tree is to hang your Christmas ornaments. Here's our quick guide to arranging ornaments:
If you want to give your holiday a handmade touch, try crafting some ornaments this season. An ornament-making party is a great way to make a batch of tree decorations in an afternoon while having fun with friends or family. Try your hand at these handmade ornament projects: