Christmas Tree Lighting Tips:
I have put the lights on more Christmas trees, both real and artificial than the average person will in a lifetime. My job in retail display had me putting the lights on and off (we cut them off the display trees every year, so we could put fresh ones on) of hundreds and hundreds of trees and garland, too. When I say hundreds – I literally mean hundreds.
I know my way around a strand of mini-lights and wanted to share my tips to make the process of putting lights on a tree fast and easy, and that will give you glowing results.
There are many ways to string the lights on a tree from branch wrapping, going round and round the tree horizontally, to vertically stringing the strands up and down the tree.
I watched my dad use the branch wrapping method when I was a child. He was really good at it. It took him all day, but every wire was hidden. The horizontal method or vertical stringing leaves too many empty spaces and the lights sometimes look too lined up.
To light my tree, I learned early in my display career from my seasoned display mentors that we did not have time to wrap every branch and instead to use a little bit of all 3 of these methods. It is fast, easy, and the lights are always evenly spaced with little wire showing.
Before I start putting lights on the tree, I use a handy-dandy 9-Outlet Christmas Tree Cube Tap Extension Cord from True Value. It is the best tree lighting invention ever!
If you are not familiar with this type of extension cord, once you use it – you will never ever put lights on a Christmas tree without it.
When you use a regular extension cord with one outlet tap – all the plugs from all the lights have to reach this plug or outlet bar. The top light strands have to weave down the tree to the bottom to be plugged in where the outlet(s) are. It can get quite messy and may leave more lights then are necessary along the path to the outlet.
This scenario does not happen when you use the 9-outlet Christmas Tree Cube – this extension cord gets strung up along the trunk of the tree and evenly places 3 cube taps (for 9 plugs) one at the bottom, middle, and top of the tree. The light strands on the top of the tree get plugged into the top tap outlet, the middle lights – the middle tab, and the lights around the bottom, go into the bottom tab outlet.
No more having to send all the plugs to only one outlet or area. It also makes it easy to follow the safety rule, not to plug more than 3 sets of lights together. Once you have three light sets strung together. You have another outlet in close proximity to start another 3 strands.
The extension cord also has a rocker switch that makes turning the lights on and off all at once very easy.
When my daughters were little we decorated the tree using multi-colored mini lights. It has become our tradition to use them. To make them look even more festive, I string clear mini lights around the trunk and in the center of the tree.
This makes the tree look lit from within. At night, it glows beautifully. I use the multi-colored mini lights on the rest of the tree.
When I string the lights on the tree, I start at the top and work my way down. The reason I do this is that the top is usually sparse and it is hard to hide the wires. I can use whatever amount of lights that is needed to get this area just right. Once I think it looks OK, I proceed down the tree.
I learned to weave the strings of lights in vertical waves in 12” heights while moving around the tree horizontally, then choose the most prominent branches to wrap the lights around to make sure the strand is secure. I do not wrap every branch.
As you string the lights on the tree – do the “squint test” to bring the lights into focus. It creates a bokeh effect when you squint.
To do it – just squint your eyes as you look at the tree. This helps you see where there is an empty spot that needs filling.
Twinkle lights – not blinking lights, but bulbs that slowly twinkle one light at a time, not the entire strand going on and off at once. Adding a few strands of twinkle lights will make the tree look magical.
A Few Other Christmas Tree Lighting Tips to Consider:
- Buy more strands of lights than you think you will need. I learned that it is much easier to just throw out old strands that don’t light. It is too time consuming to figure out the cause of the unlit bulbs. Even if you do find the cause, it is a weak point and is likely to just go out again. Toss and use a new strand. This is one of the very, very few times I don’t recommend re-purposing something old; it really is just too hard.
- If you are using brand new lights or have strands from different manufacturers – the colors and brightness of the bulbs may look different – if this is the case, make sure to place similar strands evenly around the tree. If not, one part of your tree may look different, either in color or intensity.
- To easily store lights so they won’t get tangled – wrap the strand around a piece of cardboard. Plug each strand to itself and then store in a large box.
- Test each light strand to make sure it is working properly before stringing on the tree. There is nothing worse than having to find the bad strand once the lights are on the tree. I plug each strand into an outlet and leave it plugged in for about 5 minutes. I gently shake it around to make sure all the bulbs are secure. If it stays lit – it goes on the tree.
- To keep the strand from tangling as you add it to the tree. Wrap it around your shoulders like a shawl. This allows you to pull it freely when you need more to string and keeps it from tangling. When storing, you should start with the male plug first as when you unwrap next time you’ll want to plug in the female end and continue unwrapping the rest.
- When half the set is lit and the other is not – you could try replacing the first bulb after the outage or a fuse, but this may not fix the strand. I save these strands to use to light the bushes around the exterior of my house for Christmas. You string the lit section on and shove the unlit section into the bush.