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How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree: From Basic to Advanced

Updated on November 4, 2009

A Christmas tree just doesn’t seem complete until it has Christmas lights on it. But how do you go about putting the lights on the tree so that they look just right? The trick is to choose your lights wisely, start with a basic design and then work your way up to fancier methods of adding lights to trees if you so desire. It takes a little bit of patience to make your Christmas tree lights look perfect but it is well worth the effort if you’re the kind of person who really enjoys a well-lit tree for the holidays.

How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree: The Basic Way

The first thing that you’ll want to learn is how to do a really basic set-up of Christmas lights on the tree. This is the most common method that people use to set up a Christmas tree using a single or multiple strands of Christmas lights as they are sold in stores. Here are the simple steps that you’ll want to follow:

• Choose your lights wisely. The easiest Christmas lights to put on a tree are those which are a simple, single strand of small lights. There are larger lights, designers lights and hanging lights but if you’re just getting started then go with the basic lights. You can, of course, choose multi-colored lights, single-colored lights or white lights.

• Take the lights out of the box, spread them out on the floor and make sure that they work. You want to untangle the lights and check that they work before you try to drape them on to your tree. Spread them out flat, plug them in and see if any of the bulbs need to be replaced. Most boxes of lights come with a few extras for replacement as needed. If you are using multiple strands of lights then check all strands individually as well as strung together.

• Start from the bottom center and work your way up and out. The best way to get a full look for your Christmas tree is to start a strand which runs from the plug where you’ll be plugging them in to the center of the tree’s trunk. Wrap the strand lightly around the branches closest to the trunk, weaving your way upwards through the middle of the tree to the top. When you get to the top, weave your way back down but drape the lights further out on the branches. Do this until you have reached the tips of the branches with the lights. The whole tree should now be decorated with lights and you can go ahead and adjust them higher and lower on the branches as you see fit.

How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree: More Advanced But Actually Easier

There’s a great product available which allows you to but your lights on your Christmas tree in a much easier way especially if you are using multiple strands of lights. The final effect looks more polished and advanced but the process of setting up the tree is actually easier. The trick is to use a product that is specifically designed to create multiple outlets for your tree.

• Purchase a multiple socket extension cord. This is sometimes known as a holiday cord or a Christmas light controller. It has multiple outlets spaced at even intervals.

• Secure the cord vertically running down the trunk of the tree.

• Plug the first strand of lights into the first outlet at the top of the tree. Wind the lights outward along the branches at the top of the tree. Wind them back in around the branches to where you started. Wind them back out on the branches that run in the other direction. The top strands are the most difficult because the branches are smaller. It gets easier as you go down the tree. The process is the same for each outlet. At the end, you’ll have a Christmas tree that has evenly spaced rows of pretty lights.

How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree: Getting Truly Advanced

The trick to putting your Christmas tree lights on in an advanced one is to be creative. This creativity happens in two ways:

• Choose really creative Christmas lights. You can use the same basic method to put lights on your Christmas tree but get a much more advanced effect by using unique Christmas lights. You can get strings of lights (like the ones that you would hang outside your home), larger opaque Christmas lights or unique novelty Christmas lights.

• Be more random in how you put on your lights. It’s best to use the “advanced but easier” method described above in terms of at least buying the vertical cord and using separate strings of lights that plug in to that cord independently. From there, though, you can get creative. You can plug a strand of lights in to each outlet and create geometric patterns, strange criss-crosses or other shapes. It may come out stunning or it may be so bad that you’ll need to start over but at least you’ll have a lot of fun.

Note that you can also choose to use real candles on your Christmas tree instead of putting lights on it! (Learn how). Also note that you want to put the lights on the tree before adding any other tree decorations such as garlands, popcorn strings, Christmas ornaments or the angel/star that tops the tree.



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  • profile image

    MarthaM 4 years ago

    Here's how we do it:

    Use 50-light strands of small lights that can be joined together at either end.

    Use the multiple outlet Christmas tree extension cord described above. Fasten it to the tree trunk with twist ties, with the plug at the bottom end and the top about 2 feet from the top of the tree.

    Start at the top. Place the last light in a string up where the topper or angel goes and work your way down.

    You are going to zig-zag the lights down about one third of the width of the tree rather than go all the way around the tree.

    Take the string of lights from the trunk UNDER THE BRANCH out to the end of the branch, weaving over and under the twigs. Try to make the lights point up like candles. Fasten the light cord to the branch with a twist tie or light clip both near the trunk and out near the end.

    Go over the tip of the branch, back under, and over and under the twigs on the other side of the branch back to the trunk..

    Go on to the next branch.

    When you come to the end of a string, try to work it so the next string joins near the trunk of the tree, under a branch.

    After joining about three or four strings of lights together, plug the last string into the extension cord. The incandescent lights usually say to join no more than three strings, but with LED lights you can join more strings together.

    Do each 1/3 section of the tree, starting over near the top with a new series of strings.

    This is not an exact science, but it makes a beautiful, well-lit tree.

  • Janna Jones profile image

    Janna Jones 6 years ago

    Great article on putting lights on the Christmas tree. This is how we do it too.


    BTW How are you able to put multiple links, in this case you have five at the end of your hub? Hubpages always stops me at two.

    Thank you. Janna

  • profile image

    Real Christmas Tree 6 years ago

    Hey, great idea in creating an article like this. DIY will definitely save money and time! You have already offered a helping hand! Thanks!

  • profile image

    Nan 7 years ago

    Good Article, if your instructions are followed the tree will be beautiful In others words don't just throw the tree together!