How to Hang Christmas Lights on Your Tree

Ryan McVay/iStock via Getty Images
Ryan McVay/iStock via Getty Images / Ryan McVay/iStock via Getty Images

You’ve got your Christmas tree, but you fear the next step: untangling that ball of string lights and hanging them on the branches. If you’ve wondered what, exactly, is the best way to hang Christmas lights, we have you covered. Read on for some tips and tricks for mastering this holiday skill.

Christmas Light Types: Pros and Cons

One of the biggest decisions in hanging Christmas lights is choosing between incandescent and LED types. Both can light up your tree beautifully, but there are a few things to consider.

Incandescent lights work by heating a metal filament, just like a regular light bulb, so they can get hot the longer they’re on. They also burn out, and you may need to replace individual bulbs over time. On the plus side, they offer a twinkly, traditional look of soft light for a few bucks per string.

LED lights are known for their bright white (some might say harsh) tone, but LED Christmas lights have several advantages. They don’t emit heat and use less energy than traditional lights They also tend to last longer, but they do cost more than traditional string lights. If you are looking for Christmas lights that you can use for many years, then LEDs are a better investment. Just make sure you’re buying indoor lights for indoor use, not the ones meant for outdoor displays.

Choosing Your Christmas tree Lights’ Color

There have been plenty of fads for decorating your Christmas tree over the years, from using actual lit candles (not recommended!) to hiding a Christmas pickle among the ornaments.

Today, there are still no hard and fast rules. You want a mid-century tinsel tree with pink lights? It’s yours. Or maybe you’d rather have a rainbow tree to match your office color scheme, like The Home Edit did with its tree this year. Choosing a soothing, monochromatic palette of clear lights is a more traditional (and quick) route. You’re limited only by your imagination.

Methods for Evenly Hanging Christmas Lights

There’s no right way to hang Christmas lights on your tree, though many people opt for either vertical or horizontal wrapping.

To hang lights vertically, line up the non-plug end of the string with the top of the tree (a stepladder would be handy for this method). Gently lay the string in a vertical line on the tree until you reach the bottom branches, then make a U-turn and bring the lights back up to the top. Repeat until you run out of string. You may need a few strings to cover the whole tree.

For horizontal hanging, you can start at the top (with the non-plug end) or the bottom (with the plug end). Begin wrapping the string around the tree, maintaining even distance between the rows, until the full tree is covered. You can adjust the width of the rows to make the tree appear more or less densely lit, or try pushing the lights closer to the trunk in some spots to vary their depth.

Christmas Tree Lights Safety

When hanging Christmas tree lights, remember the risks that go along with it. Following a few common-sense practices will help you and your family have a safer holiday season.

First and foremost, to reduce the chance of a fire, never leave your Christmas tree lights on when you’re not home, even if you use LED lights. Don’t connect too many strings of lights to each other (aim for three or fewer). You can also use a timer to manage when the lights are on and save energy.

Most artificial Christmas trees are made with fire-resistant material. If you opt for a real tree, look for a fresh specimen and keep it well watered as long as you have it in your home to further decrease reduce fire risk.