How to decorate a Christmas tree


The Christmas season officially ends 12 days after Christmas. This means holiday decorations should remain up through January 5. On January 6, however, it’s time to take them all down.

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How to decorate your Christmas tree like a Pro?

When it comes to decorating a Christmas tree, many of us simply climb up into the attic, drag down that bin of ever-amassing holiday ornaments and try to cram in whatever will fit on the tree. Brand new and nostalgic ornaments get preferential treatment, while everything else only gets hung up if there’s room. Consequently, your tree looks the same every year.

If you’d like to decorate with intention, there is a better way.

How to decorate your Christmas tree

Following these general steps will put you — not the ornaments — in charge of how your tree looks each year. It can reduce frustrations, add purpose and help make the holidays more festive and fun.

Make sure the tree is ready for decorating

Whether you are decorating a live Christmas tree or an artificial tree, before placing a single ornament, you must first make sure the tree is ready.

For a live tree, this means cutting off the bottom branches, so it can fit in a tree stand, and positioning it, so it will stand straight — which can be harder than it sounds if the tree you purchased isn’t straight. Additionally, you should prune away or trim back any branches that are protruding to give the tree a more uniform look. When you are done, let the tree sit for several hours so the branches fully open up.

If you have an artificial tree, after assembling (if needed), reshape the branches, so it looks full and even, and there is space between the branches.

Check your old decorations and purchase new ones

Before you start stringing lights and hanging ornaments, perform a quick quality check of last year’s decorations. Untangle the lights and plug them in to make sure they still work. Evaluate the condition of all ornaments to make sure they are still suitable for hanging, fragile ones are still intact and battery-powered ones still function.

If you find you do not have enough ornaments to cover the tree, now is the time to start shopping. This includes not only ornaments but other supplies, such as ornament hooks, floral wire, zip ties and more. While the best sales come after the season, they won’t help you decorate your tree this year. Keep an eye on prices with a useful tool such as a BestReviews email subscription. This will alert you to new products and upcoming sales so you can make the most of your money.

Decide on a color scheme and theme… or not

A Christmas tree is a blank canvas. Some individuals use that canvas to express themselves by employing specific color schemes and themes, while others use the tree as a seasonal refrigerator, hanging all of their most precious memories. Decide which approach you want to use before stringing your first light, so you can decorate with purpose.

Choose a light hanging strategy

Light strings are wrapped around branches and set deep and shallow in the tree, making them difficult to reposition. Because of this, you want to hang lights before doing any other kind of decorating. However, the strategy you use to hang the lights can vary depending on personal preference. You can string lights starting at the top and wind them down to the bottom or start at the bottom and wind them up to the top. Alternatively, you can snake light strings up and down in a vertical pattern.

The important aspect of hanging lights is to keep them balanced while adding dimension to the tree. To do this, some of the lights will need to be deep inside the tree, while others can remain closer to the end of the branch — but not so close that the strings and connection points are easily visible. 

Add other elements

If you’d like a general rule of thumb for decorating, always find a spot for your largest decorations first. When you put the big decorations, such as garland or large ornaments, on first, you can quickly get an idea of the overall look your tree will have. It is also easier to adjust the bigger items when there are no other decorations on the tree. When putting these larger items on, vary the depth to add dimension to your tree. And, while many people like to save the tree topper for last, strategically, it is best to place this all-important ornament early so you don’t risk knocking over a fully decorated tree when putting it on.

Once you are satisfied with the placement of all your larger decorations, you can start filling in space with smaller ornaments, such as Christmas balls, floral picks and others. The goal is for the finished tree to have a balanced, festive look with some decorations nestled deep into the tree, while others are hung closer to (but not at) the end of the branches.

Items needed to decorate your Christmas tree

Home Accents Holiday 300-Light Mini Multi Color String Lights

Home Accents Holiday 300-Light Mini Multi Color String Lights

This set of multicolored indoor/outdoor lights is UL-approved for safe use. There are 300 lights on a total of 68.5 feet of string, and the rest of the lights will stay lit if a bulb burns out.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Home Accents Holiday 12-Inch LED Angel Christmas Tree Topper

Home Accents Holiday 12-Inch LED Angel Christmas Tree Topper

If you’d like to top your Christmas tree off in style, this 12-inch angel ornament features fiber-optic wings and body with a porcelain head and hands. It is powered by a 4.5-volt DC adapter for reliable lighting. 

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Kurt S. Adler Red Garland

Kurt S. Adler Red Garland

For those who like to add a little festive elegance to their Christmas tree, this is a perfect choice. It is a 9-foot long strand of red, green and gold twisted beads that are made of plastic to last year after year.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Northlight White and Red Snowflake Wired Christmas Craft Ribbon

Northlight White and Red Snowflake Wired Christmas Craft Ribbon

Wired, Christmas ribbon is a quick and easy way to add holiday cheer to your tree. This offering is 2.5 inches wide and 10 yards long. It is made with polyester and wire so it is easy to clean and shape.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Sea Team 125-Piece Assorted Shatterproof Christmas Ball Ornaments

Sea Team 125-Piece Assorted Shatterproof Christmas Ball Ornaments

The ball ornaments in this extensive set are made of eco-friendly plastic to be safe for kids and pets. The assortment includes various sizes that feature a matte, mirror, glitter or glaze base.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sea Team 24-Pack Artificial Glitter Berry Stem Ornaments

Sea Team 24-Pack Artificial Glitter Berry Stem Ornaments

If you want to add a dazzling burst of color to your tree, these shimmering stems are the way to go. They are 17 inches long, available in over a dozen colors and come in a pack of 24.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Kurt Adler 48-Inch Red with Green Velvet Tree Skirt

Kurt Adler 48-Inch Red with Green Velvet Tree Skirt

This 48-inch velvet tree skirt is made of polyester and has a scalloped edge. It is red with green holly that is decorated with red sequins.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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