How to put lights on a Christmas tree, according to the experts

It’s a question the UK wants answers to  

Katie O'Malley@KatieOMalley_
Sunday 16 December 2018 09:42

Christmas is a time for festive frivolity, garish jumpers, Baileys-induced hangovers, and feasting on chocolate-coated everything.

However, it’s also synonymous with last-minute present wrapping debacles, hurried scribbles on Christmas cards, family arguments, and the on-going debate of how to dress a Christmas tree.

Earlier this week, Google revealed its top UK search trends in 2018 and the question ‘how to put lights on a Christmas tree?’ featured in the top 10 list.

It would appear, then, that regardless of whether you fork out on a real fern over a pre-lit artificial tree we're universally haunted by the thought of unravelling metre-upon-metre of tiny little bulbs that test both patience and nimble fingers.

And that’s after you’ve found four dud bulbs, entangled yourself (and the pet dog) in the cord, and resorted to a well-deserved mince pie 'time out'.

But, whether you’re a Buddy the Elf, who enjoys flinging yourself from the sofa with decorations, or a Scrooge who takes one look at the box of lights in the loft and gives up, we thought it was about time we found out exactly how to put lights on a Christmas tree.

Here’s all you need to know, according to the experts:

Decide on a look

(Unsplash Arun Kuchibhotla

Before you even buy Christmas lights, it’s essential you first consider the kind of aesthetic you want in your home.

Designer Zoe Bradley, who designed the London EDITION hotel’s Christmas tree this year, advises: “Think about the atmosphere you want to create, whether that's a warm or cool tone in the room."

Russell New, the in-house floral designer at Cliveden House (where the Duchess of Sussex stayed the night before her royal wedding), explains: "Bright white lights are icy and more contemporary, whereas warm white are more traditional, producing a soft effect."

You should also consider the width and height of the tree.

For example, the 14ft tree in the London Edition hallway this year has approximately 1000 lights and is decorated with over 160 hand-sculpted snowflakes.

For a small tree, invest in micro bulb lights which are smaller on branches and for anything bigger than 6ft, choose large-headed bulbs, suggests New.

Keep in mind that a real tree will need more lights due to the density of the branches.

Think power

First, you must decide on the position of the tree and its proximity to a plug socket in the room.

New advises homelovers also give themselves enough room to walk around the tree and decorate. "Pull it out away from the wall and push it into position when it’s finished," he says.

As for the lights, keep them in a roll and unravel them slowly around the base of the tree.

Hold tight


Pegs, cable ties and green gardening wire are great tools to keeping lights and cords in place.

However, New’s top tip is to weave the lights along the length, rather than the tip, of the branches.

"For a real tree, take the lights and start near the trunk of the tree, bring it out along a branch, and run it back towards the trunk again in a circular motion, continuing until you get to the top," he says.

"Granted, this technique will use more lights but it will also give illusion of more depth on the tree. You'll also be able to see more of the decorations as it will light up more of the tree."

That said, you might want to change tactics if you have an artificial tree.

In that case, New suggests placing the lights along the tips of the branches as the artificial kind are more coned shaped and uniform in length compared to those on a real tree.

"Most sets of lights are made up of three strands which you can part and push onto the branch to fix the cord securely," he adds.

Rock around the tree

(Olivier Rudkin

‘If you have excess cord, go up to the top of the point and spiral the wire down the stem,’ suggests New.

You should also regularly step away from the tree, assess the your design, and amend accordingly.

“You should be able to loosen the cord without removing decorations."

Cover up mistakes

(Unsplash Element5 Digital

The good thing with a Christmas tree is that, in most cases, more is more.

Bradley explains: “I think you can do a lot with your decorations to hide any mishaps.”

Think oversized baubles, chocolates, and tinsel.

Don’t panic

(Unsplash Nicole Honeywill )

One of the most worrying thoughts about Christmas tree lights is finding a working bulb to replace a dud.

But Bradley says: “It’s easy to replace these as the supplier should have extra bulbs that can be added!"

That said, the majority of tree lights nowadays are LED so shouldn't’ need to be changed.

Don’t leave it a mess

(Unsplash Jasmin Schreiber

When it comes to storing away Christmas lights, there’s nothing worse than leaving it in a bundle and shoving them in a box until next year.

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As a result, Bradley says: "Roll out the cable, wrap it around a piece of card, and pop the lights in a box."

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