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How to decorate a Christmas tree: Step-by-step guide

The festivities are approaching fast.

And if you’ve recently purchased your first home or moved into a rental property for the first time, it could be time to start thinking about decorating your Christmas tree.

But if you’ve never decorated a tree before, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Our step-by-step guide can help, though, alongside some Christmas tree decoration inspiration to get you started…

1. Choose your tree

Whether you choose a real Christmas tree, or an artificial one, the key to decorating it is to choose a ‘full’ tree.

If you opt for an artificial tree, spend plenty of time fluffing and shaping the branches before you start decorating, as this will make your tree appear more natural.

If you’ve bought or are hiring a real tree, try to pick one with glossy, healthy needles and strong branches.

Great options for real trees include:

  • Norway Spruce
  • Nordmann Fir
  • Lodgepole Pine

2. Hang your lights

When decorating any Christmas tree, always hang your lights first, before anything else.

Hanging lights can be tricky, but it’s even harder when your tree is already full of baubles and other ornaments.

To hang your Christmas tree lights:

  • Start at the bottom and wrap your lights around your tree close to the trunk
  • When one bulb is sitting on top of a branch, follow up by placing your next one underneath the next branch – continuing to wrap the lights above and below branches as you move round the tree
  • Once you reach the top of the tree, continue wrapping more lights but this time move from top to bottom and layer the lights on the middle of the branches, closer to the outside of the tree
  • Once you reach the bottom again, start weaving your lights back up the tree, this time placing the bulbs on the outer part of the branches – leaving enough room to hang your decorations on the tips

3. Wrap your tree in garland

Weaving garland around your tree is a great way to compliment your wrapped lights.

Garland adds depth and texture, but it’s important not to overdo it.

So, choose two or three varieties of garland or ribbon, some plain and some decorative, wrapping thicker garland around branches and draping thinner ribbon vertically from top to bottom.

4. Add layers with baubles and ornaments

To make your Christmas tree appear full, hanging the right sized baubles and ornaments in the right places is key.

Creating a layered effect with baubles of different sizes can create drama and interest, so try to:

  • Hang your best baubles and ornaments first, choosing prime spots on your tree where they’ll catch people’s eyes
  • Then hang your larger baubles and ornaments, spacing them out evenly around your tree but keeping the largest close to the base
  • With your larger baubles, try to stick to one colour theme, but include different textures
  • Once your larger items are in place, fill in the gaps with medium and small ornaments
  • Hang your smaller baubles on outside branches, with medium-sized items hung inside, closer to the trunk

Once your tree is full, look at it from different angles and fill in any remaining gaps that you may have missed first time around.

If you’ve chosen a white artificial Christmas tree, opt for decorations that are highly contrasting in colour.

Deep blue baubles, for example, will really add a great pop of colour to a white tree.

5. Give your tree some natural touches

Although decorating your Christmas tree is mainly for visual appeal, it’s possible to add some natural decoration and bring your festive sense of smell alive, too.

Wrap up warm and go outside for a forage – you’ll find plenty of pinecones to hang from your tree, alongside festive sprigs of holly.

And if you really want to bring the scents of Christmas to your tree, hang slices of dried, spiced orange alongside sticks of cinnamon.

Not only will this create a lovely smell, but the added textures will really make your Christmas tree stand out.

6. Add your Christmas tree topper

As a finishing touch, add a topper to your Christmas tree.

While a star is often the traditional way to go with toppers, you could try something a little different, like a large gingerbread person or a bow.

Alternatively, why not make your own topper?

Getting the children involved can be a great way of spending some craft time making a striking addition to your Christmas tree.

When should I start decorating my Christmas tree?

Traditionalists suggest that you should put up your Christmas tree 11 or 12 days before Christmas Day.

But if that’s not enough time to enjoy your decorative skills, the British Christmas Tree Growers Association suggests the start of December as a good compromise.

Where should I put my Christmas tree in a small living room?

If your living room is tight on space, always put your tree in a corner and close to a window.

The lights reflecting against the window can help make your room feel bigger, too, and having your tree in a corner won’t eat into the precious space you have.

What is the best height for a Christmas tree?

Getting the right sized tree for your room is a delicate balancing act.

The best height for a Christmas tree is generally one that sits around six inches below the height of your ceiling.

Don’t forget to take your topper into account when measuring up, though.

Further reading…

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