How to String Lights on a Christmas Tree

How do you string lights on your Christmas tree?


It’s the stuff that feuds are made of. Marriages fray. Dogs hide under the couch. It’s as divisive as the toilet paper question. At least it only happens once a year.

Some are firm believers in the all-the-way-around method. It’s the right way to do it, say all the boomers.

But also some of us are tired. Some of us just want to get the lights up and the tree is sitting in a corner anyway, so who actually cares? Nobody but nobody. Except maybe Aunt Ruth and she’s just got too much time on her hands.

Then there are the overachievers. There are two methods for these individuals. You know who you are.



We’ve got four ways to choose from.

christmas presents tree santa

The Annoying: AKA The Spiral

We all know this one. It’s how grandad did it and how dad did it and probably how most of us have done it our whole lives. Why? Tradition? Fear of Aunt Ruth’s side eye?

If you don’t know this one, it entails a ladder, two people and generally some four letter words. Eggnog is recommended.

You start at the bottom, plug in your first strand of lights and start spiraling it around the tree clock or counterclockwise, doesn’t matter. When you run out of arm length, you pass it to your partner: neighbor, kid, spouse, sister, random person you paid heftily to help you.

Tuck the lights in a bit and then bring them out to the edges. Weave them up and down a bit. You don’t want straight lines of lights winding up your tree.

lights on a christmas tree

The Easy: AKA The U-turn


This is the one Aunt Ruth will skewer you for. This is the one you will thank yourself for. It’s also the one you can do solo with a glass of wine and your favorite music.

It works just like it sounds. String your lights from the bottom up, but this time you’ll go as far as you can to the right, make a lighted u turn around a branch and string to your left. Spread the lights out and don’t go in a totally straight line.

When you get as far left as you can go, make another u turn and head back to the right. Do this all the way to the top and you’re done.

You can do this in two or more sections and you can do it all the way around the tree. But if you’ve got a corner tree, you can just do the front. We won’t tell.

christmas lights and ornaments

The Professional: AKA Tons of Lights


This is not for the faint of heart. Buy extra lights and then buy some more.

Always starting at the bottom, you work your way up and down the tree in a vertical pattern. It’s like the U-turn method, just flipped 90 degrees and you’ll go around the whole tree. Unless you don’t want to. Just covering the front is fine with us. Start at the bottom and run the lights up in a more or less straight line, weaving in towards the trunk and out towards the branch tips and left to right just a little, so it’s not a hard straight line of lights up the tree. Rise and repeat all the way around.

 christmas lights and ornaments

The Overachiever: AKA All The Lights


Take all the lights you bought for The Professional and buy some more. You’re going to cover every inch of this tree.

Rule number one: start at the bottom. You’re basically going to do the spiral, extra. You’ll be moving one direction all around the tree in a spiral, but instead of just tucking the lights here and pulling them out there, you’re going to cover each branch from the trunk to the tip with lights. No, we didn’t mistype. Yes, you’re going to be here forever, but it will be worth it if you love lights.

The trick to this one is laying the lights on top of the branches. Starting at the trunk, run your lights out to the tip of one branch, making a little u-turn at the tip and run the lights back down the same branch to the trunk, then over the branch next to it. Do that same thing for all the branches.



When you run out of the first strand, plug the next one in, hiding the plug as best you can. We like to twist tie the extra cord in a little bundle so there’s no gaps in the lights. Then we tie it to a branch so it’s hidden.