In this easy tutorial, you'll learn how to decorate a Christmas tree step-by-step. Get inspired by those Christmas tree decorating ideas and find different ways to make your Christmas tree look really full.
I love decorating my Christmas tree! Every year this childish enthusiasm is rekindled. It's exciting, beautiful, funny, and sometimes clumsy,... Simply wonderful.
Our tradition is to put up and decorate the Christmas tree the day before Christmas (in our case, the 24th of December when the "Christkind" is coming).
Since I've been a mom, the decorating has moved to the evening, when our little girl is asleep, to surprise her the following morning with a fully decorated Christmas tree.
She knows that mom and dad are dressing up the tree, but that doesn't diminish the amazement and joy. And that sparkle in my daughter's eyes when she sees the tree makes Christmas a thousand times more beautiful for me than it already is.
We have a real Christmas tree every year. Although not one in a pot, so not a living one, but a Christmas tree cut at the right full moon. We do not have space in our garden for an "alive Christmas tree" every year! 😀
I am not a fan of an artificial tree because I love the smell of a real Christmas tree so much. I find the whole house smells like a small fir forest as soon as the tree is put up, and then always fires my imagination!
But let's get down to decorating a real Christmas tree, step-by-step.
Check out this post: How to use an artificial Christmas tree as an Advent Calendar.
Step 1 - Creating the right mood
Yes, that is also part of it. And I think this first point is essential. Nothing is more of a pity than being rushed and perhaps even in a lousy mood when decorating the Christmas tree. That's how the Christmas tree will look. Unloving, dull, just not that festive.
Take a little time beforehand. At whatever time you decorate the tree. Make sure you have comfortable clothes on. Turn on Christmas music. I have a Christmas playlist on Spotify that I put together and love to listen to while decorating. Please give it a listen; you might like it too! Then we set up a cookie plate and prepared a glass of red wine for us two.
After all these things are prepared and available, only then do we start on the Christmas tree. 🙂
Step 2 - Finding the right place for your Christmas tree
Find a place, ideally in the living room, where you can easily see your Christmas tree most of the time.
Like us, many have the tradition of always putting the Christmas tree in the same place. In this case, this first step is done quite quickly.
Since our living room goes around the corner, where on one side is the couch and on the other the dining table, our Christmas tree is always directly on this corner. Thus, you always have him in view, whether sitting comfortably at the dining table or on the couch.
And I also see him from the kitchen, which is very dear to me because I like to be there while baking. 😀
If you haven't found a suitable place for this year's real Christmas tree yet, or are still figuring things out, I recommend choosing a place where the tree is often visible to you. It only decorates your home for a limited time, so try to get the most visible time out of it.
Place your tree in the desired location using a tree cross/stand.
Step 3 - Choosing a suitable Christmas tree cross/stand
Many overlook that (like when building a house); everything stands and falls with the foundation. It is no different from the Christmas tree. A bad Christmas tree stand makes little joy, and the danger of falling over, wobbling, or standing crooked is immense!
Many Christmas tree seller offers matching Christmas tree crosses at the time of purchase.
Since we always buy from the same, we took one Christmas cross with us the first year and used it every year. It is essential to have a solid one. The larger the cross and the less fragile the attachment of the tree, the better.
For example, our Christmas tree vendor sells his trees with a hole drilled. The cross itself consists of a large wooden cross with a long metal peg of about 7.87 inch // 20 cm in the middle, which you insert into the drilled hole. This peg gives it an excellent grip.
Other options are as follows:
Once you have found the right place and the tree is securely in place, cut open the netting that most Christmas trees are packed in and let the branches of your tree settle.
Step 4 - Pick the "sugar side" of your tree to showcase
Once the tree branches have settled, which usually does not take so long, it is now time to find the sugar side.
If the top has grown crooked, shorten the upper end of the tree with garden shears so that the Christmas tree topper holds better afterward and does not sit at an angle on the tree.
With our last year's tree, unfortunately, we did not succeed because it had such a strangely shaped end that no matter how you turned it, it would not come completely straight. Beautiful he was, nevertheless.
No matter how regularly grown, Christmas trees always have a "best" side. And this is precisely the side you want to find. Now turn the entire tree until this sugar side is visible and leave it precisely for decorating.
Step 5 - Hanging the strings of lights
The lights mark the start. But which string of lights is the best for your Christmas tree? After years of struggling and untangling, we finally found the perfect string of lights two years ago. And I am not exaggerating here. In my eyes, everyone should have such a light chain for his Christmas tree because it is just so super tremendous and practical!!!!
I am not a patient person, you know? I get so annoyed when I struggle with untangling a "stupid" light chain! Never again, I tell you! No!
"The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!"Captain Jean-Luce Picard
By chance, my husband and I found this string of lights while Christmas shopping (Lumineo 1 2 Glow). It's set up to have one long strand of wire where strands of lights go off at regular intervals.
There you can simply "sublevel-like" wrap around the tree, hang them together at the end using carabiners, and have a round ready decorated. There are prefabricated for different Christmas tree sizes and can also be very easy to reassemble and stow when decorating. Thus, there is no more tedious untangle! Yay!
After you have decorated the tree with lighting from top to bottom, round by round, plug it in and see the result. If necessary, you can still adjust where there should be a little more or less light and voilà.
The light chain offers both the possibility of dimming, and flashing and also has a timer. Set everything here according to your wishes. We always use a medium brightness plus a timer.
The following two variants are similar and also recommended.
Step 6 - Add your Topper
We do this quite early because the top of the Christmas tree simultaneously means a suitable attachment for the end of the string of lights.
Where the tree continues to grow, a small bump forms on the trunk at the end of the Christmas tree; you have to cut it off, so you can place the topper of the Christmas tree much more effortlessly.
Having a pair of secateurs at hand is advisable to cut it off. So don't forget to prepare them upfront.
Step 7 - Place the unique Christmas tree Ornaments
As for the Christmas tree ornaments, we always start by putting up our unique and favorite ornaments and glass ornaments. These should get the best place.
I also especially like these little things, no idea what they are called. They are small Christmas tree baubles attached to a wire, which are combined as a nucleus. I always like to place these on some branches.
Here are a few examples from last year:
Step 8 - Place the larger Ornaments
Here the motto is from big to small. First, hang all the large Christmas tree baubles or decorations. We always place these in the middle and outer third of the branches—the heavier ornaments more in the middle, that is, towards the tree's trunk.
The heavier ornaments are also very suitable in the lowest row of tree branches. And please do not forget to decorate the tree from all sides!
You want a fully decorated, beautiful tree in the end! Not only the sugar side of your tree should be decorated!
Step 9 - Place the medium and small Ornaments
The medium size Christmas tree ornaments are well suited to the inner and outer third of the tree branches. Here you need to try a little, depending on how strong the tree branches are.
They should not weigh them down by their weight. Finally, the tiny baubles are there as fillers. Everywhere you have the feeling that something is still missing, hang up a small bauble. Those little ones make the tree then so really nicely filled.
Step 10 - Place the Garlands, Ribbons, or Beads
Here it would be best to decide in advance what Christmas tree decoration it will be while planning or shopping.
To help you with that, get the FREE Guide: Decorating the Christmas tree - planning and shopping.
This free guide will find possible combinations and the minimum Christmas tree decorations you will need for a Christmas tree about 7-foot // 2 meters in size.
(How many and which Baubles, ornaments, garland, and so on.)
I find a combination of tinsel garland, bead garland, or ribbon and beads the most beautiful.
Depending on your chosen option, the hanging is a little different.
Garlands only (whether fuzzy/tinsel ones or ribbons)
From the bottom up and from the outside in. What does that mean exactly? We tend to put the garland on the outer third in the bottom row. The further up we go, the closer the garland comes towards the trunk. Thus, the less dense, upper part of the tree gets filled up by the garland.
To note: If you want to finish with real candles on your Christmas tree, keep the outermost parts of the branches free for this purpose.
Tinsel Garland with Beaded Garland in the Mix
When combining beaded garlands and tinsel/ribbon garlands, it is recommended to attach the beads first and afterward the garlands.
Also, from the bottom up, from the outside to the inside. The beaded garland looks better near the tree trunk, while the fluffy garland has more effect on the outer side.
Step 11 - Place the tree skirt
In most cases, this is the one who does the closing. But before you put the tree skirt, sweep up the fallen needles. You don't want to forget them under the skirt. 🙂
Now, carefully, without destroying the Christmas tree decorations in the bottom row, place the tree skirt around the Christmas tree. *Looks adorable*
If you don't have such a particular tree skirt, you can also use a big tablecloth as a substitute. Fold it in half and drape it around your tree. It looks almost the same as purchased and is a cheap alternative.
Optional - Natural Candles
Natural candles can not be missed on our tree. Since I was a little girl, these have been used for the Christmas tree and lit exclusively for Christmas Eve. Using those candles is a tradition with us.
The candles are attached to the Christmas tree with unique Christmas tree candleholders on the outer branches of the Christmas tree. They either have the same color as the Christmas tree decorations or use ivory-colored ones.
But when using real candles, you should always have a blanket, fire extinguisher, or a bucket of water nearby for safety. Nothing has ever started to burn in 39 years, but better safe than sorry.
I find the combination of real candles with the string of lights gives such a fantastic effect. It makes Christmas Eve even more festive.
Done! The tree is decorated and ready for the celebration! Have fun decorating, and have a great Christmas! 🎄
And don't forget to get your free PDF! Decorating the Christmas tree - planning and shopping.
About the History of Christmas Trees
How Did Christmas Trees Start?
Long before the advent of Christianity, plants, and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries, it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year is falling on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from his illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes, which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.
Romans marked the solstice with a feast called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon, farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.
In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts , also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.
Christmas Tree History
A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer, such as a fir, spruce, or pine, or an artificial tree of similar appearance, associated with the celebration of Christmas, originating in Germany associated with Saint Boniface. The custom was developed in medieval Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia), and in early modern Germany where German Protestant Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It acquired popularity beyond the Lutheran areas of Germany and the Baltic governorates during the second half of the 19th century, at first among the upper classes.
The tree was traditionally decorated with "roses made of colored paper, apples, wafers, tinsel, [and] sweetmeats". Moravian Christians began to illuminate Christmas trees with candles, which were ultimately replaced by Christmas lights after the advent of electrification. Today, there is a wide variety of traditional and modern ornaments, such as garlands, baubles, tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star might be placed at the top of the tree to represent the Angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem, respectively, from the Nativity. Edible items such as gingerbread, chocolate, and other sweets are also popular and are tied to or hung from the tree's branches with ribbons. The Catholic Church had long resisted this custom of the Lutheran Church and the Vatican Christmas tree stood for the first time in Vatican City in 1982.
In the Western Christian tradition, Christmas trees are variously erected on days such as the first day of Advent or even as late as Christmas Eve depending on the country; customs of the same faith hold that the two traditional days when Christmas decorations, such as the Christmas tree, are removed are Twelfth Night and, if they are not taken down on that day, Candlemas, the latter of which ends the Christmas-Epiphany season in some denominations.
The Christmas tree is sometimes compared with the "Yule-tree", especially in discussions of its folkloric origins.
How to decorate a real Christmas tree?
- Christmas music
- Comfy clothes
- Christmas cookies optional
- Christmassy drink optional
- 1 Christmas Tree 7-foot
- 1 Christmas tree cross / stand
- 131-136 Ornament hooks
- 4-6 Unique Ornaments
- 12-15 Big Ornaments
- 40 Small Ornaments
- 35 Medium Ornaments
- 40 Mini Ornaments filler
- 1 String of Lights
- 4-5 6.6 ft Tinsel Garland
- 1-2 22 ft Beaded Garland
- 1 Topper
- 15 Natural Candle
- 15 Candleholder
- 1 Tree Skirt
- Create the right mood.
- Finding the right place for your Christmas tree.1 Christmas Tree 7-foot
- Choose a suitable Christmas tree cross/stand.1 Christmas tree cross / stand
- Pick the "sugar side" of your tree to showcase.1 Christmas Tree 7-foot
- Place the strings of lights.1 String of Lights
- Add the topper.1 Topper
- Place the unique Christmas tree ornaments.4-6 Unique Ornaments
- Place the larger ornaments.12-15 Big Ornaments
- Place the medium and small ornaments.40 Small Ornaments, 35 Medium Ornaments, 40 Mini Ornaments
- Place the garlands, ribbons, or beads.4-5 6.6 ft Tinsel Garland, 1-2 22 ft Beaded Garland
- Place the tree skirt.1 Tree Skirt
- Place the candles - natural or electric ones.15 Natural Candle, 15 Candleholder
Please note that all my recipes are developed and tested in metric grams. I recommend using digital scales for more accurate results. I provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe, but please note that I haven't tested it using this method.