How to Put Christmas Lights on a Tree

Peter Chambers

Dec 9, 2023

Family decorating Christmas tree.

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Christmas trees are a symbol of the holiday season. Whether Santa visits or you enjoy the look of them, lights can add a little more magic to the season. Here’s a guide on how to put lights on a Christmas tree. There are many options. 

Horizontally

A traditional way to hang Christmas tree lights is to horizontally wrap them around your tree. Begin at the top of the tree and roll out your lights so the power cord is at the bottom. Starting at the top of your tree gently wrap it around the branches as evenly as possible. Horizontal wrapping creates circles around the branches, providing generous space to feature ornaments or bows. 

Vertically 

You can also cascade your lights vertically on your tree. Depending on how tight together the branches are, you could hang your lights over them from their midpoint. You could also create a “halo” using a metal wreath ring. Hang the lights over the ring and place the ring at the top of your tree so the lights hang down in bands.  

Lattice 

Purchase net lights that already have a lattice pattern for your trees or you can create one with clips. You can find the clips online or at stores that sell Christmas lights. To make a lattice pattern, string lights horizontally around the tree and add vertical strings on top of the horizontal ones. Secure them with the clips to keep the grid in place. 

Spiral

A spiral design is a twist on the classic horizontal pattern. Instead of placing the strings level with each other, string them at an angle. Starting at the top, string the lights downward from the center to one side. Then, loop them back up to the original location. Repeat this pattern down the tree. You can use red and white lights with this pattern to make your tree look like a candy cane. 

Waterfall

This technique involves creating downward facing arcs around your tree. Begin as if you’re doing the horizontal technique but skip every few branches, letting the lights sag down to create a half circle. You can make the shapes as large or small as you’d like, repeating the technique down the tree. 

Types of Christmas Tree Bulbs

Once you decide which style you want to hang your lights, you can decide which types of Christmas tree lights to get. 

Incandescent 

Incandescent bulbs are the cheapest light option on the market. They almost always have a ‘classic’ shape that emits a soft glow. You can get them in white or multicolor options. However, they are fragile, meaning you must carefully store them if you want them to last. They can also get hot, making them not the best option for families with small children or pets who may touch the tree. 

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

LED bulbs are more durable and burn longer than incandescents. They’re also more environmentally friendly and cool to the touch. They also stay brighter, which makes them preferable for outdoor displays and larger indoor trees. Since they don’t get hot, they are a safer option for little hands and paws. The primary downside of LEDs is that they are more expensive than incandescents, though the price has significantly dropped over the past several years. 

Light Styles 

There are many light styles to choose from to dress your tree. Here are some of the most popular. 

String Lights

These are the classic Christmas tree lights. It’s a single string of wires braided together with bulbs laid out every few inches across. You can easily wrap them around your tree in any formation you choose. 

Icicles

Icicles give your tree a touch of winter. As the name suggests, they look like icicles whether by shape or the way the lights fall down the strand. 

Novelty 

Along with icicles, manufacturers make Christmas lights in all shapes, sizes and colors, letting you be as traditional or nontraditional as you choose. From flamingos to food, you can wrap your tree to meet a theme of your choosing. 

Rope Lights 

Rope lights have a similar shape to string lights but have the bulbs inside of the tube instead of outside. The tubes are clear, so it looks like a single band of light instead of smaller ones. You can easily wrap them around your tree. 

Net Lights

Nets come in the lattice formation, making them easy to throw over your tree or anything else that needs an all-over Christmas touch. 

Trunk Trappers

These lights are similar to net lights but wrap around the trunk of your christmas tree, ensuring you have light from top to bottom. They are a safer option when decorating a large outdoor Christmas tree. 

Best Trees for Hanging Lights 

There are many species of Christmas trees but some hold your lights better than others. They include the following.  

  • Virginia Pine: Virginia pines are fast-growing trees, making them popular for Christmas. They have dense foliage with short, stiff needles that easily hold heavier light strings.
  • White Spruce: White spruce have blue-green needles that rest on strong branches. The branches are perfect for keeping your light designs as you desire. 
  • Norway Spruce: This tree has dark green foliage that can make white lights stunning against it. It has stiff needles that are perfect for holiday horizontal or spiral design. 

Hanging Lights on Artificial Christmas Trees 

Many artificial Christmas trees come pre-lit but still often require that you arrange and connect strands within it. You can also hang different lights around each section before you put it together to better control your design. 

Putting Christmas Lights on a Tree

There are many options for placing Christmas lights on a tree and doing so is a way to express your creativity. Regardless of the design, lights can add a little more sparkle to your holidays. 


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