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How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree So It GLOWS

Do you know 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 so it glows. But just hear me out.

How to put lights on a Christmas tree

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.

artificial christmas tree lights

How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree

Now, we’re not going to start at the top. No, no, friends we start at the bottom.

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

If your branches are attached, just fold down the branches layer by layer.

tree lights

How to put lights on a Christmas tree! Genius!

Christmas tree lights

Then, 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 of the tree.

christmas tree lights

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 lights on 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.

How Many Lights to Use

The general rule of thumb is 100 lights per 1 foot of tree. We have a 7 foot tree so I used 700 white lights (seven 100 strings of lights).

Real Tree Vs. Artificial Tree

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.

You can also use this method to add extra lights to a pre lit tree if you want yours to glow some more. You could also add twinkle light strands or colored lights.

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

How to put lights on a Christmas tree! Genius!

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?)

colorful glass christmas ornaments

How to put lights on a Christmas tree! Genius!

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  1. 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. We do a real tree so I feel like it’s a bit trickier to use this technique on a tree that doesn’t come apart…. but I’m gonna have to try this. It looks beautiful!

  3. 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!

  4. 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. 😉

    1. 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!

    2. When I first started this method in 2014 – I also saw a method to both colored lights and white lights on a tree, but now I can not find anything like it again. All my googling turns up the color changing light up trees. Any ideas?

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. genius. so happy to find your blog. it’s a beauty, full of great ideas. will be pinning this! xo.

  8. I like that much better than the lasso method!

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

    1. I don’t understand but sounds amazing!

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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!!

  16. 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.

  17. 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

    1. 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! 🙂

  18. 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.

  19. that’s great!! omg so glad I found this

  20. Lizzie Saito says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! I think this lighting strategy will make my hand blown glass Christmas ornaments (from eBay and http://www.glasslilies.com) shine more.

  21. I love the stockings! And your tree looks so bright, I am definitely trying this method this year, thank you!

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. love it just fixin’ to put the tree up and I saw you on pinterest thanks for the tip your tree is gorgeous

  25. Loved it! My Christmas tree came out beautiful! Thank you for the tip!!

  26. 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!

  27. What type of artificial tree do you have? I want to get a new one for next season. 🙂 My email: [email protected]

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

      1. Okjust found this on Pinterest. Do you think it’s worth it for a 4 foot tree? The bottom seems so bare I’m not sure the technique would be as successful.

        1. I try my best to use the method on my 4 foot tree. I know, typically, those trees don’t have branch arms so I try to shove the lights into the tree.

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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!

  34. Oh wow I love this idea!… I have a very similar constructed tree to you, it’s kinda bushy so I usually just wrap the lights round and round in a spiral effect, I really do like this! Need to get some more lights! 🙂

  35. 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!!

  36. 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!

    1. Same here with the top “chunk” being in one big piece. I have been doing this method for 20 years. (When I’m feeling extra motivated,I use white lights in the middle and colored on the rest). Over the years I had to to cut down to this exact method. Years ago, I did this method but literally wrapped every single individual branch. 2000 lights on a 6 foot. I would go through 100 lights on 2-3 pieces/branches. One too many fuses blown (even using two separate 9pc tree extension cords) and I now just weave in and out each branch while assembling from the bottom up. When I get to the chunk, I keep weaving the same way, just in random sections in both directions making sure there is no visible wire running in ether direction. And make sure to stuff some far back so it has the same glow effect as the rest of the tree. Takes awhile but it’s worth it. Just back up and squint to see the bare spots so you don’t miss a big chunk that you’ll have to fill in later with another set(not fun). Luckily you need to light less branches on the denser top or else it’s uneven with the top being way brighter. Doing mine tonight because it takes me weeks to finish the house and I want to be done by the night after Thanksgiving. 🙂

  37. 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.

  38. Really good christmas lights project. But,… could you please advice me, how do you lights the tops half ?

  39. Where did you get your Christmas tree? I Love It!! Thank you and Merry Christmas 🙂

  40. 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!

  41. Hi there, simply was aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am going to be careful for brussels. I’ll appreciate in case you proceed this in future. Numerous folks can be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!|

  42. Irene Johnson says:

    Hey — this is happening on my house the day after Thanksgiving 2015!! Thanks for sharing.

  43. Hi, your tree is lovely, I have a question thou, where are your wires?? It looks so neat and tidy, on my tree the wire where I plug it in is always showing, 🙁 but on your tree I can’t see them ANYWHERE :/ thanks. Xx

  44. I’m so glad that I found this because this is how my mother does her tree. It looks so beautiful every year. Thanks for sharing!

  45. I do my tree like this every year! Takes me a long time but I love the end product. He only other thing I do is on the very inside I use the big bulb lights. Makes it glow even more!

  46. there is a maximum of the number of lights you can plug into each other….usually states it on the box….for safety reasons…just sayin….I solved it by getting an extension cord with multiple plug ins and run it up the inside of the tree….and it has a central on/off switch you can turn the whole tree on….:)

  47. carol plant says:

    Love your tree this year – my tree is usually mostly white with various other colours mixed in (mostly red) however this year somehow it ended up all white and silver with crystals and i put a lot less on this year i always use white iights and make sure to pull some into the centre so it is lit all the way thru – i just put on a couple of red ornaments that had some special meaning to me – once its dark and the tree lights are turned on it just sparkles so muchas the crystals reflect the lights – i’m glad we are both happy with our trees again – you certainly have a wonderful decorator’s flair – everything you do is lovely \i wish you and your famiiy a Merry Christmas carol

  48. It does look much better. I think I will try this out next year. But like you say our artifical tree is slightly a different set up. WHich may make it a little harder. Thanks for the guide on the amount of lights.

  49. Your tree is beautiful! I wrap a strand of lights around the pole first. Instead of wrapping each branch, I fluff the branch and lay the lights on top of the branch-at least 2 lines per branch–kind of like the way you do yours. I wind up with about 1000-1200 lights. I hang some ornaments very near the inside pole. I finish it by sticking really shiny pieces of garland-that I cut into a bunch of different lengths- all over the tree, behind ornaments and close to a light. This makes the tree just glow! The last few years I used gold garland and shades of pink, cream, glass, and white. Last year I switched to silver garland and shades of silver, white, pink, and glass. I love it just as much. I’m a sucker for shiny so I have things on my tree that wouldn’t be considered Christmas, but I don’t care.

  50. This was very helpful. My husband and oldest son always do the lights, but they are so busy this year, I took it upon myself and teamed up with my younger children to have a go at it. I looked at a few sites before I started and I couldn’t even understand what they were talking about, it sounded so complicated. This is doable and beautiful. Thank you!

  51. I used LEDs on the bottom 2/3rds of my tree this year and, because I ran out, used old incandescents on the top. Is it just me, or does anyone else find that the LEDs don’t do as good a job at illuminating close-by ornaments? Right now, I can see a glittery gold ornament on the top–color, size, texture, glitter–and an identical ornament further down that looks like silver glitter along the sides, black facing out and.possibly because it looks so fuzzy, seems larger than the one on top.


  52. Cynthia Santos says:

    OMG! This is great. I was looking into artificial trees as the real ones can get a bit pricey year to year & was starting to look into the pre-lit ones since they look SO bright and pretty & it would save me all that effort on putting on the lights but they are pricey. I also HATE putting up the lights as we used to loop the lights around the tree which ended up looking messy, uneven & was a TOTAL drag. Your tree looks beautiful I’m definitely trying it out this Christmas. Great post -xoxo

  53. The Tree is looking glorious!!! I love for fitting lights in tree.
    thanks for the sharing beautiful one.

  54. I was just looking through some Christmas in July stuff and found this. I’ve always wrapped my lights on the branches, but I was doing it wrong!! Your arrow diagram showed me how!! I was going out from truck to tip then crossing over to the next branch and going outside to inside. I will give this way a try! I’m not sure I have enough lights!!!

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