in: Manly Know-How, Skills, Visual Guides

• Last updated: June 4, 2021

How to Put Lights on Your Christmas Tree Without Swearing Up a Storm

In the McKay household, I’m the official “Put the Lights on the Christmas Tree Person.” I’ve done this job every year since Kate and I were married. And every year, I’d end up muttering swear words under my breath while Nat King Cole crooned in the background about the joys of a decked-out tannenbaum.

I kept running into a set of perennial problems that made putting the lights on the tree an exasperating task. But over time, I slowly worked out remedies for each that have made the job easier and increasingly efficient. 

The first problem was that the lights wouldn’t work after I put them on; it’s a terrible feeling to get all the lights strung on a tree only to discover they’re defunct because a single bulb is burnt out. Thus, I now meticulously test each strand before it goes on the tree. 

Another problem that kept popping up was that when I strung the lights from the top of the tree to the bottom, by the time I got to the bottom, the lights would look too sparse. Since the bottom is wider, it takes more lights to fill it out, and I’d end up having to add some strands, but in a more haphazard way, since they weren’t part of the around-the-whole-tree flow. So now I begin to string the lights from the bottom, which allows me to plug them in before I start, and ensures that I can see how they look as I go and affirm that I have enough lights at the base before moving on up.

A final reoccurring issue was that the lights wouldn’t look like they had enough depth. In years past, I’d just sort of hang the lights on the ends of the branches, resulting in a tree that didn’t have a look and brightness that was sufficiently three-dimensional, and again forcing me to add in more lights after I thought I was done. To solve the problem, I’ve learned to alternate stringing the lights in towards the trunk and out towards the tips of the branches as I work my way up the tree. 

By implementing these techniques, my annual lighting job now goes a lot smoother. Hopefully they’ll work for you too, so you can save your swearing for when you’re fixing the furnace. 

Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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