tips on how to decorate a christmas tree

The best ways to decorate a Christmas tree

When Christmas arrives one of the first things people do as part of their seasonal traditions is decorate a Christmas tree. But not everyone enjoys it – it can take longer than you hope, especially if you’re letting children help.

I have to admit to being quite strict with our Christmas tree. N helps put the tree up, and starts helping on decorations. He’s getting quite good now at spreading baubles out, but he gets bored halfway through so I just finish it myself. If you want to have a gorgeous elegant themed tree, but still want to include children’s homemade decorations, then you’ll either have to give in. Or have a smaller tree for the children to decorate as they want to.

tips on how to decorate a christmas tree

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Probably the worst part for most people is de-tangling the Christmas lights*. If you’re one of the people who check the lights before you put them away and winds them neatly up, it’s easy. I find the most annoying bit putting the lights on the tree. Decorating the rest of the tree is fine because I use the same colour scheme every year, and know where I like the baubles to go.

Are you one of those people who admires other people’s decorating skills?

Or who wanders around garden centre Christmas displays dreaming of having a beautiful tree of your own?

Obviously there are some people who’re real pros at decorating their Christmas trees. I’m not, but I do like a nice simple clean display. There’s no garish mish mash look here.

And while it would be amazing to change the display every year (or even every 5 years), who has the room to keep storing different decorations every time you want to change.

I’m all for sticking with what I know and just updating a handful of baubles every few years.

If you want some tips on how to make it easier to decorate your Christmas tree, then see my tips below.

Tips on how to decorate a Christmas tree

1. Choose your tree well

Real trees are lovely, but I’m an artificial tree girl. Stick with the real tree outside, and have a nicely shaped, consistent tree each year, which suits the space you have in your house. With an artificial tree you get to know the size of baubles you need, the spacing on the tree, and how many decorations you need to fill it.

2. Use fillers if needed

Not every tree is perfect. Our old 6ft tree is quite sparse branches wise (it means I have room for huge baubles). Depending on what type of real tree you have, you may have gaps too. But you can make a tree look fuller using fillers of different types.

  • Plain garland – wrap around the trunk for more depth
  • Tree picks – these can add bulk with individual ‘twigs’ with pine cones, berries and extra fir branches which you just use the wires to add to existing branches
  • Add presents – empty boxes covered in wrapping paper and tied with ribbons to sit on the inside of branches to add a bit of depth
  • Use ribbon or tinsel nearer the ends of the branches to fill the gaps
  • Make sure you fluff your Christmas tree before adding decorations. Fluffing a tree involves spreading out and shaping each branch of an artificial tree to create the fuller shape.
boy decorating artificial christmas tree

3. Have more lights than you think you need

I read somewhere that 100 bulbs (or 5 ft of lights) for every 2 ft of tree gives the ideal spread, but Christmas tree stockists seem to have upped that to 100 lights for every foot of tree. That’s a lot of lights. Of course this assumes you don’t have a pre-lit tree. Personally I prefer to put my own lights on, and if mine was pre-lit, I’d probably still add at least one string of lights.

In the past I’ve had 2 sets of 150 lights on my 6 ft tree, but I would like more. I need to invest in a longer set of lights this year. This year I’ve invested in a new 7ft tree, and have bought just one set of 750 lights. It could be overload, but will look spectacular lit up.

4. Decide on your colour scheme or theme

If you like a mix of colours then stick with that and go for it if that’s the look you want to go for (or that the kids insist one). But generally you’ll get a more elegant feel with only 2-3 colours.

Alternatively try theming your tree – animals, or a fairy tale or film, and choose your decorations to match the theme. Check out the Alice in Wonderland themes at Blenheim Palace – they did beautiful Nutcracker themes in 2021.

5. Stick with one colour for lights

Whites can be a bit bright, but you can get warm whites which are slightly more yellow and softer. So choose what will fit in well with your house.

6. Put the lights on your tree first

In the past I’ve always started at the bottom at the back, then worked my way horizontally, over and under branches, spiralling up the tree to the top. This has always worked well because it means it’s evenly spread, and you shouldn’t miss any branches. But last year I read that hanging your lights up and then down as you move from 1 side to the other of the tree works better. I found it harder to have enough lights doing it that way, and it looked more formal, so I removed them and started my usual method again. But if you’ve got a lot of lights, then try hanging them vertically and see how it works.

Note, always add them with the lights on. It’s easier to see as you’re going, than to turn them on at the end and find they’re unevenly spread out.

7. Add tinsel or bead strings if using

I’ve always used bead garlands on our tree, so again hang them off the branches spiralling around from bottom to top. Tinsel can be used in a matt green to fill gaps in a tree, or with colour if you’ve not got many baubles. It’s not really popular anymore, but if you like it, then use it.


8. Add ribbon

Last year I added some ribbons. I only had a few strips but it still added a bit more body and interest. Use ribbon, tinsel or beads, not all of them for a more elegant look (although I did have beads and ribbon last year as I was trying ribbon for the first time. There are plenty of tutorials online of how to fold or spiral ribbon on a tree. Generally you want to create ‘loops’ of ribbon’. You can use a long length, or smaller pieces.

Alternatively you can make bows and add those after the baubles.

9. Add your focus baubles or decorations

You want focus points on your tree – large or bold ornaments that stand out. Add those to the tree spacing them out I always imagine a zig zag shape up the tree and add my largest or favourite baubles where the points would be.


10. Add the rest of your baubles

Fill the gaps, spreading out the colours, going from medium to smaller baubles. I’m of the view that more is more when it comes to baubles. I love this tree bauble calculator for help on the number of baubles you need.

11. Add your topper

Star or angel, or whatever else you fancy for the top of your tree. We always struggle to get the topper to stay on top without bending the top of the tree, so rarely bother. But a topper does finish a tree off.

Stand back and admire your evenly decorated tree.

Check out my tips on Christmas decoration storage ideas

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

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