When I think about Christmas I am reminded of one of my favorite things when I was a kid, our Christmas tree. It had so many lights on it that sometimes it was hard to look at it. It took up half of our living room, was covered in ornaments to the point that it didn’t have a free branch, and had to be plugged into at least three different outlets around the house so it didn’t blow a breaker when you turned it on. Most people consider this to be crazy, I consider it totally normal and try every year to live up to my mom’s tradition.
Every year without fail I forget how to start. I stand looking at the tree feeling lost and overwhelmed. So this year I am writing it all down to share with you and remind myself next year how to start. Warning: this post may want to make you go out and buy 3,000 lights, however, lights are extremely expensive. I recommend buying multiple strands the day after Christmas when they are on super clearance and keeping them to add to the collection next year.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Patience- This process takes a long time and becomes very frustrating.
- 6-12 hours- Depending on the size of the tree this is not an exaggerated time frame.
- 25-40 strands of lights- Depending on size you will need a LOT of lights
- 3+ extension cords- I have recommendations that I share later in the post
- Christmas music or movies- I watch (mainly listen) to cheesy Christmas movies to take my mind off the lights.
HOW TO, LIGHTS:
Step 1: Buy a tree. I buy the biggest tree that will fit in my house every year, it has been known to make scratch marks across the ceiling but that doesn’t slow me down, or make me want a smaller tree. This is our tree this year, not the normal tradition of scraping our 9ft ceiling, at only 8 feet but I love it. I give the tree a bath on the back porch after opening it up, before bringing it in to the house to help with my husbands allergies. Before I start putting the lights on I like to let it sit for a few hours minimum to fall a little and return to its natural shape. This will help when it comes time to putting on the lights.
Step 2: Trim the tree. Each year I cut a little extra off the bottom of the tree to make sure it will fit into the stand. Also, the weight of the lights will weigh the branches down so much that they touch the floor if you don’t trim them ahead of time. I also use what I cut off the bottom on our tv stand so its a win, win.
Step 3: Extension cords. I have one very similar to this that is a lifesaver for the top. I run it all the way through the tree before starting and use it as my starting point at the top. I also use power strips at the bottom to make for an easy on/off switch. You will see in the second video below that my extension cord blew a fuse this year and I had to run out in the middle to replace it. Always an adventure…
Step 4: Test lights. I start by testing at least 3 strands of lights. I plug them in then sit them on the floor, this is an important step because at least two each year flicker when I sit them down, those are immediately go in the donate/ use elsewhere pile. I then keep them plugged in if they past test 1 and untangle them. If they flicker at all, they go straight to the same pile. I know some of you may be thinking at this time, they will be fine, trust me you don’t want to do it. A few years ago I said the same thing, finished the tree and was laying on the couch two days later when the strand right in the front, dead middle of the tree went out. It was a nightmare trying to fix it and in the end I couldn’t, lesson learned the hard way… never again!!
Step 5: Start adding lights. First, if you are a shorty like me, get a ladder because you need to start at the top. Plug your first strand into the extension cord that you installed in step 3 and confirm again that the lights work. I put three stands together at a time and string them around the room so they aren’t tangled and so that I don’t have to climb up and down the ladder a million times. Make sure you hide the plugs as you go along and start wrapping branches.
Step 6: Wrapping the branches. You should make sure that at the top you wrap every single branch with lights. As you move towards the bottom you continue to wrap every branch. This is why I said in the beginning that it takes so long, it feels like it takes FOREVER. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now and trust me, it doesn’t get any better but it is so worth it in the end. Photos below better show how that looks.
Step 7: Work towards the back. Finish the top all the way around and then work your way towards the back/ bottom of the tree. You will weave your way naturally through the tree as you go. You generally need the tree pulled really far out in the room in order to do these areas, so it is nice to finish and push the tree back against the wall. This is a quick time-lapse of me working on the top of our tree to better explain a few of these steps.
Step 8: Work on the sides. After the entire back is finished from floor to ceiling I push the tree into the corner and work on the sides. I wrap each branch and weave from top to bottom and side to side until I have added lights everywhere except the front.
Step 9: Finish the front. This is easier said than done most years. Around this point I normally run out of lights or a strand starts to flicker and I just keep swimming, just keep swimming…. I love Finding Nemo, just had to throw that in since I was actually singing it while writing. Sorry, back to the lights… Around the front/ bottom I like to wrap the bottom branch first and then pull in towards a strong branch above it and wrap that branch next. By pulling the bottom branch to the stronger branch and wrapping it you prevent them from sagging as much as the tree settles from being wrapped up. Two weeks from now the tree will still look happy instead of the lower branches falling to the floor and lights hanging off everywhere, I learned this the hard way as well.
This is another quick video of me finishing up the second half of the tree, this was about 4 hours and when you notice the tree go out in the middle you can laugh while I kinda wanted to cry.
Step 10: Sit back and enjoy the 3,000+ lights that you have on your tree because YOU ARE FINALLY DONE!!!
Now, if you are still reading then I want to make a few comments/ answer some questions that I have gotten almost every year in the past when posting photos of my previous trees.
- How many lights are on the tree this year? 4,300
- How many strands did you use this year? 26
- Does your power bill go up? YES!! On average it is at least $100 more because of the lights throughout the entire house but it does change some.
- How long did it take you this time? For just the lights it took 6 hours this year, thank goodness it was smaller.
- Why do you add so many lights? This might be my favorite question that I get because it reminds me of Christmas with my mom! Near where I grew up was a small house with a glass storm door and a tiny porch. Inside this house was a Christmas tree with the most lights I had ever seen in my life on it. We both thought it was beautiful so my mom started adding more and more lights to our tree until one year it had thousands of lights on it. Our tree was always so pretty that the first year we had a real tree I wanted it to look just like her’s always did. She showed me how to add all the lights and the rest is history! We still ride by that house real slow every Christmas just to enjoy how pretty that tree is still.
Each year I have collected ornaments from a variety of stores to get to the collection that I have now. I shopped after Christmas the first three years and bought everything that we could afford at the time, this wasn’t always a lot. I now have a lot of ornaments but I stayed with the same theme each year and therefore they all match. Everything on our tree is silver, white, or clear. Most have glitter, even though I normally HATE glitter, and most of them are glass. Since we don’t have kids this isn’t a real problem for us at this time.
THE FINISHED TREE
So Ta Da!!! This is the finished tree for Christmas 2017!! As some would say it can been seen from space but I LOVE it because of that.
Our tree this year is much smaller than normal but that is okay with me! When I found the perfect tree this year it just happened to be 8 feet and I’m good with that. How many lights do you put on your tree?