How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree

It’s true.  I have a system when it comes to putting lights on our Christmas tree.  But just hear me out.

Growing up, we would throw the tree up and wrap the lights around it.  I would stand on one side and my mom would stand on the other, and we would loop the lights around the tree, encasing it in lights.  Not until I was older did I grow to not really like that look.  It just looks too messy to me.  And the tree doesn’t glow like I think a Christmas tree should.

Enter Martha Stewart.  I was watching her show a few years back when she demonstrated how to put lights on a Christmas tree.  Martha said that you should wrap each branch with lights.  Eureka!  Now, Martha demonstrated on a real tree, which would be more difficult to execute than the type of artificial tree we have.

how to put lights on christmas tree 4

Now, without further ado, how to put lights on a Christmas tree:

First, I put on the bottom layer of branches.  I wrap each branch– going up and down the branch with the lights.

how to put lights on christmas tree

how to put lights on christmas tree step 2

how to put lights on christmas tree 2

Then, I put on the next layer of branches and add the lights using the same technique I used on the first layer of branches.

I keep doing this all the way up to the top.

how to put lights on christmas tree 3

Of course, my last strand of lights were dead, and I didn’t feel like running to the store at 8:00 PM.  Needless to say, I’ll be finishing the tree tomorrow.

But that, my friends, is how I put lights on my Christmas tree.  No more light-lassoed Christmas trees.  The whole tree glows and the strands of lights aren’t barely as noticeable as with the lasso method.

But let’s say you have a real tree or an artificial tree that isn’t assembled quite like mine.  If it were me, I’d try my best to go up and down each branch.  This may take a little more time, but trust me, you’ll love the results.  Also, you may want to wear gloves to protect your hands.

Here’s the final look of our 2011 Christmas tree (see more photos here).

jewel tone christmas tree 4

And here’s the final look of our 2012 Christmas tree (see more photos here).
(There’s not much difference from the 2011 tree because I don’t have the budget to change the look of our tree every year.  But then again, who does have the budget and storage space to constantly change the look of something they bust out for 1-2 months every year?)

jewel tone christmas tree 1

Note:  The general rule of thumb is 100 lights per 1 foot of tree.  We have a 7 foot tree so I used 700 lights (7- 100 light strands).

how to put lights on a christmas tree

Check out my other Christmas projects!


Stalk away!


  1. says

    I am one who has been doing the “lasso treatment”…tempted to rethink it although I am not sure I would have enough strands of lights to light up my tree the way you have done yours. We have a 7.5 foot tree that is pretty full…how tall is yours and how many strands of lights do you use? I actually just put my main tree up over the weekend since I wanted to see if I could put it in a big pot…it just doesn’t have lights on it yet.

  2. says

    A new way!…conincidentally, I was watching a Christmas decorating show on Saturday, and the lady had a different system that I also found interesting: placing the lights vertically and through the branches. I’ve also been doing the lasso style, and thought that vertical idea was pretty amazing. Yet, the wrap-each-branch is rather good. How many sets of lights did you use? According to the lady in that show, one should use a set of 100 lights per each feet of tree. If one has a 7.5 feet tree that would be around 8 sets of lights. Then again, I suppose that depends on how “bright” you want yours, right? In any case, thanks for the tip!

  3. says

    Very pretty! We bought a pre-lit tree last year, so I thankfully don’t have to worry about stringing lights anymore, and I’m really happy we went that route. I refuse to put the tree or outside facing lights up until after Thanksgiving, but I put all of my other decorations up right after Halloween. I went a little nuts this year. Normally they don’t go up until Thanksgiving has passed. 😉

    • says

      i had a prelit too and it takes about 8 years for the lights to start going out. when they do, it’s such a pain to replace. if i had it to over again, i would have taken them off when the first strand went out. oy. enjoy it though! they are great for a while!

  4. says

    I used to make my husband do that to our tree (gotta love Martha!)…but we purchased a pre lit a few years ago and it has been pretty amazing. No more fighting over the tree lights :)
    I love how bright your tree is!
    I’ll be decorating after Thanksgiving, and I’m so excited!

  5. says

    We kind of do a part lasso part Martha technique. We put up two trees…because we’re crazy. One is pre-lit and seems so darn easy. Our 12 foot tree is not pre-lit. That was a bad frugal move…

    Your tree is looking fabulous. You could just leave the top and start a new trend.

  6. says

    Growing up we used the lasso method, and I was pretty loyal to it. It was quick and easy. However, since moving out and becoming the owner of two cats, the lasso method went out the door. The first Christmas, the cat (who was a kitten at the time) found it very easy to pull on the light strands. So now I use the same method you do to prevent the cats from pulling down the tree. When we move out of this apartment & into a house we’re planning on investing in a pre-lit tree – less fuss :)

  7. says

    I also go with the wrapping the branches method, but the thing I never thought of is to add the branches as I go. I always put the entire tree together and then light. Doing it in chunks is pretty smart.

    My silver tree is supposedly pre-lit but the top section is out. I know it’s not dead, so I’m sure I’m just missing the stinking plug for it. But I can’t find it so I just added a strand on the top and called it a day. =)

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Super smart.

  8. Terese says

    I bought my first artificial tree the day after Christmas 2012…so excited to try this technique. I would have totally put the whole tree together and then done the lights! Loving your brilliance…

  9. msumissa says

    My method (as tought to me by my mother) is similar to yours, however I follow the mid line of the branch and then wrap around the indiviual twig and back to the middle, move up a couple of twing then repeat out and back to the middle. This way there is no wire visible. Seeing wires was my mothers (and now mine) pet peeve. It took YEARS of training for my mother to finally let me put the lights on the tree. Of course a real tree, and picked to death. I usually end up with at least 1200 lights on my tree. I do have a fake one, but had to restring it a few years ago. Luckily I can leave the lights on in each of the 3 sections. Beauiful tree.

  10. Angela says

    That’s the way I have been doing mine for years. It looks beautiful and fully lit. Although it is a pain if a string goes out and you have to replace it.

  11. Sally says

    I have been lighting my tree with this method for 30 years. That’s the way my parents did, therefore so do I. It does work beautifully

  12. Tammy says

    I do the lasso still but I do mine differently as well. I go into the tree and up the trunk with blinking lights (about 300) and then I do the outside of the tree with steady burning lights (about 800). I love the twinkle, but hate it blinding me so the inside blinking is just the right amount! Yes, it’s a real tree and VERY prickly LOL!!

  13. jichell says

    This is way too much work. An even easier way to create a beautifully lit tree is to purchase the net lights and wrap them around the tree. The results are fantastic and it takes the hassel out of fooling with the liggts.

  14. Diana D says

    love the idea but starting at the bottom, doesn’t your plug end at the top of the tree? I have always worked my way down so the final strand can plug in at the bottom….just wondering how you work this. your tree looks beautiful

    • says

      Thanks, Diana! Do you mean the “male” part of the plug? I plug it into an extension cord (you can see it in the photos– it’s white) that plugs into the wall and runs to the bottom of the tree. Then I plug the additional lights into the “female” part of the lights and keep going up the tree until I’m done. Hope that makes sense! :)

  15. LadyMJ says

    I learned how to put lights on a tree from my grandmother. She would place solid white lights on the inside, closer to the trunk but far enough away that the trunk itself wasn’t the only thing showing. Then on the outside, she would wrap twinkling color lights.

    When the tree is lit… you have the glow of the tree with the colored lights dancing around the ornaments. I’ve been doing the same process for years, though maybe this year I’ll try something a little different. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Shaylene says

    Tried it and LOVE it! My tree glows beautifully!! I like lots of light so I used 11 strands of 100 lights (7.5 foot tree)!! BEAUTIFUL!

  17. Kelly says

    I remember watching Martha explain her lighting process, I think it was a holiday special of hers. It looks very pretty that way! A couple of years ago I bought a pre-lit tree so I know longer have to worry about the light stringing.

  18. Beth says

    I learned this technique several years ago from a friend who’s a florist…I wouldn’t light a tree any other way. If you have an artificial tree that’s made in sections (as opposed to the kind with detachable branches), you can put the lights on, wire them on with floral wire, and as long as you end each section with another strand of lights, you can leave them on from year to year. I did that on a tree many years ago, and it worked beautifully for about 10 years…and I didn’t have to put lights on every year!

  19. Tammy says

    Thirty years ago I worked for a florist decorating trees for the Christmas season and this was the exact technique she used. Works perfectly every time with flawless results. She was the master long before Martha Stewart was a household name. I have always had a live tree and haven’t had the patience or enough lights to try this but I wish I did!

  20. Gael says

    This is how I do it, too. A friend told me about this method 20 years ago, and I tried it and loved it. We have a pre-lit tree, but it isn’t as lit as this method ends up being, and we have other trees. Bottom to top is the way to go, adding branches. My last strand lights the top, then I drop it straight down the inside of the trunk. It doesn’t end with a plug hanging out.

  21. says

    I use this method as well. It takes a while to do on 9 foot fresh trees, but it is so worth it. It makes it look like a department store christmas tree. I start at the bottom and work my way up until I plug in the star at the last ext. Looks perfect! I get complements on my tree every year. I love your tree! Such beautiful colors!

  22. says

    I’m going to try this this year…thank you! I used to wrap the lights around each branch and would come out with my hands all scratched up. I quit doing it when we got our giant artificial tree though because it’s so big. (We call it “Big Fatty”)

    I love how you put the lights on as you build the tree….Now I have to go buy more lights! 😉 I also need to learn how to take good pictures of the tree when it’s lit up.

  23. says

    Found via Pinterest and I love this tip! I’ve never thought of putting lights on a tree this way but it totally makes sense. I will be applying this to my Christmas decorating this year. Thanks!

  24. Carol says

    i worked at a Christmas shop many years ago, and this was how all of the trees in the store were done. I have done my trees this way ever since, including adding one layer of branches at a time like you do. I kind of chuckled when someone posted that it is way too much work, because I do not fuss over this step at all. The varying depths of the lights is what makes it so pretty, and if you have twinkle lights, it is fabulous!

  25. Holly says

    I have been doing this method for years ( never saw Martha do it, just figured it out . . . but we use colored and white, so we wind up with @ 1,200 lights on the tree ( 7 1/2 ft artificial ) I light the fact that with the light strung all thru the interior of the branches, you can see all of the ornaments hanging along the length of the branches, so that every time you take a look, you find something new ( also makes finding the pickle a bit more fun ) I don’t have matches sets of balls, just individual ornaments of all sizes and shapes ( about 350 on the tree this year ) So, that’s how I’m spending Black Friday/Sat/Sun – decorating the three and house for the Christmas season ( don’t take it all down until the Sat after 12th night. ) Merry Christmas everyone!!

  26. Kayla says

    This looks great! But, how do you light the top half? Our trees top just pops on the top of the trunk in a big bundle. The only way I know to light the top is the laso!

  27. says

    We use this method on our real tree for lights too. Our tree looks about the same every year as well. I already spend too much on Christmas decorations – if I tried to change the tree every year, I think my hubby would just give up. :) Besides, if your tree looks different all the time, where’s tradition? I love to pull out the same ornaments year after year.

  28. Nancy Gibson says

    If my tree will look as good as yours does, then you can bet I am going to be doing it your way. I love tons of lights on the tree. Thanks so much for sharing. Your tree is gorgeous!

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