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Tips for Decorating a Christmas Tree

Updated on May 9, 2011

In America, Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a big weekend for decorating a Christmas tree.

Families all over America are climbing up into the attic or into the storage shed retrieving their artificial Christmas trees, boxes of ornaments and starting to sort out strands of tangled Christmas tree lights.

Others are making a trek out to a Christmas tree farm picking out just the perfect tree to be hand-cut just for them. The local tree farm here charges by the inch. That concept scares me a tad.

Others are heading to the local stands picking out a cut tree that has been driven in from some northern location. I always wonder how long ago it was cut before it was even driven to Texas. You really have to keep these well watered if they are to survive with a few needles all the way to Christmas.

No matter what your choice of tree, let's assume you have it and it's now time to decorate it.

Where do you start?

Deciding on a Theme

Over the years I have enjoyed experimenting with different color schemes and Christmas themes for my Christmas decorating. I have tried to choose ornaments and decorations that fit multiple themes.

One year my entire tree was decorated in icy blues, whites and silvers. One year everything was in pinks, purples, and silvers. Sometimes I prefer a country theme where I use more rustic ornaments made of wood and handmade items. I have written a hub about a tropical theme you can try.

After Christmas is a great time to buy next year's color scheme. That's what do each year. Last year's theme at KCC's was gold, cream, burnt orange and brown. All of the decorations were purchased at 90% off a couple of days after Christmas.  This year's theme is black and white.   I found the cutest wrapping paper last year after Christmas that is solid glossy black with white snowflakes.

Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree

Unless You Have a Pre-Lit Christmas Tree, You Begin with the Lights

I know pre-lit Christmas trees have become quite popular, and I'm sure we can all understand why. No more messing around with strands of lights. However, there is something very creative about being able to strategically place each light so that you can create a beautiful tree.

It is recommended that you use LED Christmas lights to save on electricity for one. They also recommend that you use 100 lights per foot of tree height. If you have a 7 foot tree it is recommended that you use 700 lights or 7 strands of 100. You can certainly use more or less according to how well lit you want your tree to be.

You can chose clear bulbs or colored. You can use all one color or a mixture of colors. I've always preferred the clear bulbs.

Some people prefer to work on their tree with it pulled away from the wall or it's final location so that they can easily work all the way around it. If you can do that, it does have it's advantages. However, you may want to put the tree in it's final location from the beginning so that you can plug the lights in and work with them lit as you go.

  • Start with the first strand of lights at the bottom branches of the tree. Make sure you leave enough cord of the correct end dangling so that you can plug it in. Begin working your way upwards going completely around the tree. It sometimes helps to have someone help you with this.
  • Stop and tuck each length of cord between each bulb around various branches so that you hide the cord as much as possible.
  • Plug in the next strand and carry on moving up the tree until all strands are plugged in.
  • If you reach the top of the tree and still have strands to place, begin working your way back down the tree filling in gaps between what you already placed. If you have a tree topper that requires electricity, you may want to work it in now.
  • Step back from the tree and look at it from different angles and adjust as necessary.

Placing the Ornaments

Now it's time to place the ornaments on the Christmas tree. If you have children with ornaments that mean a lot to them it's a great time to include them in the decorating. My daughter has always enjoyed placing her special ornaments on the tree. She and usually place my son's special ornaments on the tree together. It is a special time to remember Kevin and continue to make him a part of each Christmas holiday.

  • Place heavier and larger ornaments on the lower and more sturdy branches of the tree.
  • Place ornaments with a special significance to the front of the tree, preferably at eye level.
  • Consider the symmetry of the tree when placing ornaments of the same type or color. Avoid clumping too many of the same kind or color in one area.
  • Step back and look at the tree from various angles and adjust accordingly by moving the ornaments around.


Adding Filler

There are lots of things you can do to fill in the Christmas tree. These are a few of the items I have used.

  • You can create beautiful country garlands by taking a length of jute, thin rope or macrame cord about 10 feet long and cutting or tearing strips of material about 3-4 inches long by about an inch wide. Tie these strips onto the length of cord. Continue doing this until the entire length of cord is covered. The strips of material can be all the same or in complimenting or contrasting colors. Drape these handmade garlands over throughout the tree for a homespun look. You can also use a few of these same pieces of fabric to tie bows onto various tips of the tree limbs.
  • Strands of popcorn can be hung on the tree, but I really think it encourages mice so I really don't recommend it.
  • You can scatter bundles of German statice or baby's breath throughout the tree by laying it on key branches with the stem towards the middle of the tree.
  • My favorite filler is curly ting-ting. Curly ting-ting can be found on Amazon or Hobby Lobby and it can be found in lots of colors including a natural tan. I have used a glittery gold ting-ting on my trees. You poke each stem into the tree with the curly side outward lying on the ends of branches. Because ting-ting can be rather long, make sure the stem isn't poking out the other side of the tree. I don't recommend breaking them or cutting them unless you don't plan to reuse them. I rearrange them so that the stem goes is hidden better.
  • Some people like using old-fashioned icicles. They are not recommended if you have small children or pets because of the choking hazard they pose.
  • You can also use store-bought garlands.
  • You can use color-coordinated ribbons and bows to fill in bare spots as well.


Adding the Christmas Tree Top

A Christmas tree topper is often a very symbolic part of the Christmas tree decorating ritual for a lot of families.

Some people have designated a specific person, often the father, to perform this function.

Many people have a family heirloom that sits atop their Christmas tree. It is often an angel or a star.

Whatever your choice for tree toppers, now is the time to place it if you didn't place it when placing the lights.

Adding the Christmas Tree Skirt

The Christmas tree skirt can be an important part of your decoration depending on how you handle the gifts under the three.

When I was growing up my family held the belief that you should put only three or four presents under the tree. My mother would wrap empty boxes with wrapping paper and decorate them with a bow and put them under the tree. Their belief was that if a thief broke in he would go straight for the gifts under the tree. He would end up empty-handed and our real gifts were stored safely away in a closet somewhere. This meant our tree skirt was often seen with so few gifts sitting on it.

When I had my own tree, I liked to put the gifts under my tree and you could never see the skirt. When you can't see the skirt, it really doesn't matter how fancy it is. I have one really nice tree skirt in the traditionally red, white and green, but since I use so many different color themes I often just use a few yards of material for my tree skirt.

There are lots of shimmery fabrics available that can be draped around the base of your tree to create stunning effects. I'm going to be using two different glittery fabrics for my look this year.


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    • listsnthings profile image

      Toya Christie 2 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      This a good way to decorate a tree I usually put up the lights last over the decorations which I find easier to do.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks chilario1979!

    • chilario1979 profile image

      chilario1979 8 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Hey Animalanding! Aren't fiber optics fascinating? I can see the appeal.

    • Animalanding profile image

      Animalanding 8 years ago from Nevada

      I have always had a weakness for the fiber optic trees. My husband looked everywhere for the tree we have and though it's old it still changes color and is about 6 ft tall. We still add decorations but it's easier not to put lights on the tree. Also easier clean up. Thank you much for sharing this hub. :)

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I've only had a real one from a stand once and it smelled heavenly, but it cost me $65. It was our first year in our new house. That's just too much to spend on a tree.

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 8 years ago from ma

      I love the smell of a real tree. But, with 3 kids it is so much easier to go with the pre lit one. This year with the 17 month old we are back to putting all of the most fragile ornaments on the top. So the bottom of our tree is pretty bare.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I hear ya.

    • mistywild profile image

      mistywild 8 years ago from Houston, TX (Proud Texan)

      my daddy calls me Ellie Mae cuz of my critters, and I would LOVE to keep the dogs out back but Hurricane Ike knocked the whole thing down, lifted the concerte out of the ground and everything but it's so much $$$$ to replace it, times are tough right now.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks Mistywild. All 7 of them critters inside? Yikes! I'm not an indoor pet person. Well, to be honest, I'm not really a pet person now that I really think about it. We do have two goldfish that my daughter won at a local annual carnival. Pooter was won over a year ago and Daisy is this year's addition. Gilbert, who she won last year too, died this year just after Daisy arrived. We suspect Daisy had something to do with it. We do have 3 dogs that live with my ex (who lives next door) that sometimes wander over.

    • mistywild profile image

      mistywild 8 years ago from Houston, TX (Proud Texan)

      I have 4 dogs and 3 cats, I can't have a tree with all the trimming :( I do however have a fiber optic tree that is breath-taking, so it all works out. once again a great article, thanks for sharing.