Christmas Decorating

How to Properly Light Your Christmas Tree

By Fran Holmes

Christmas tree lights come in all shapes and sizes and can be used to great effect in creating a truly sparkling Christmas tree that will be remembered for years to come. The big question is, “How do you go about lighting it properly?”

First of all, decide what type of light you would like the tree to project. Do you want a soft glow or a tree that lights up the room? Soft glow can be produced with globe lights or bubble lights. Incandescent bulbs and bright mini lights will create an eye-catching, festive glow.

Incandescent bulbs generate heat and allow a real tree to emit the fragrant aroma of pine. However, one should be aware that the heat factor can be a contributory cause to fires, so give this ample weight in your decision making when choosing lights.

Bright mini lights, come in both compact incandescents, which produce heat (as noted above) and LED’s. The LED’s (light-emitting diodes), do not produce heat and offer a significant safety factor as they are flameproof and fireproof. LED’s come in mini, multi-colored lights or solid color strands.

You can choose between green stranded lights, which blend in well with real or artificial green trees or choose white stranded lights, which leave only the lights showing as the white strands disappear into the white tree limbs.

Safety Factors to Consider

Always read the description on the package before purchasing lights. Don’t just go on price alone. While the least expensive lights may seem to be the most sensible choice, make sure they have good safety ratings indicated on their box. Purchase from companies that have a solid reputation.

Mini lights burn the coolest as opposed to larger bulbs.

Always inspect your existing and/or newly purchased light strands for the following:

• Faulty or loose connections
• Broken, cracked or missing bulbs
• Frayed or worn wire
• Damaged or cracked sockets
• Exposed wire
• Faulty operation

If you find any of the above, DON’T use them and DON’T try to fix them yourself. The risk you pose to yourself and your family is simply not worth it. Simply throw them away and replace with new ones. If you just purchased them, return them to the store for either a replacement or a refund. If you get a replacement, be sure to check those as well.

While it may seem elementary, NEVER hang lights on a dry tree! How do you tell if the tree is dry? Try to bend or break one of the small twigs on the tree. If it is easy to snap, then your tree is too dry.

If you are using an artificial METAL tree, DO NOT hang lights on it. These trees can become electrically charged and can electrocute someone who touches the tree. Metal trees can also cause electrical holiday lights to short out and cause a fire. In general, give serious consideration to staying away from metal trees.

NEVER USE CANDLES on a real or artificial tree. This is a tremendous fire hazard!

Lighting Your Tree

To give your tree a lovely, luminous effect, think about using clear white miniature bulbs as the base lighting. You can then add solid or multi-colored strands for color. Interspersing novelty lights such as snowmen, angels, snowflakes will enhance the overall appearance.

Purchase lights with the same type of plug. Tree lights come in two formats: stacked or end-to-end. Make sure you are using the same type throughout. Stacked plugs will allow you to join more strands together; however, you should not connect more than three strings together.

Make sure your extension cords can handle the wattage of the bulbs. The wattage on the bulbs should all be the same. This will help prevent power surges and extends the bulbs’ life and reduces the chance of fire.

Plug in the lights before you put them on the tree.

Inspect all the lights as noted above.

When you are working with a fresh Christmas tree, plan to use three 100-light sets for each foot of your tree’s height. Example: An eight-foot tree would call for 2,400 lights or 24 light strands.

To give your tree a balanced, well-lit look, divide the tree into three triangular sections from top to bottom. To get a mental image of this, think of three tall triangles touching each other edge to edge in a circle.

To get started, secure the last bulb of the string to the top of the tree next to the trunk. Then work your way down the triangle to the bottom of the tree, weaving the rest of the lights as you go. Be careful not to let the cord cross over itself. Follow this procedure for the remaining two triangles. As you connect your light strands, be sure not to have more then three strands connected.

How do you tell if you have blank spaces? Step back from the tree and squint to see if you see any dark holes. Re-weave as necessary to fill in the blank holes. Then step back and re-check your handiwork. Once you have the lights to your satisfaction, then begin placing your ornaments on the tree.

Finally, have a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy your beautiful tree.

Father of 7, Grandfather of 7, husband of 1. Freelance writer, Major League baseball geek, aspiring Family Historian.

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