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How to decorate a Christmas tree

Melanie Whitehouse / 25 November 2015

Follow our step-by-step guide to decorating a show-stopping Christmas tree that’ll wow family and friends.

Decorations on a tree
Add depth and interest to your tree by hanging your ornaments on the inner branches of your tree as well as the tips

Light up your Christmas tree

Before placing a single light on the tree, make sure they’re working by plugging in each strand. Then keep them lit as you work, so you can see how they look.

To illuminate your tree from the inside out, string small lights around the trunk and inner branches to give depth. Then wind chunky or more ornate strands around outer branches. Step back frequently and view your work, filling in gaps and holes.

Don't be afraid to mix and match lights. Faceted glass bulbs will refract more light and appear brighter. Small twinkle lights and coloured lights have impact when you layer several strands and pair them with ornaments that have reflective surfaces. A ‘background’ of white or clear lights can be highlighted with strands of colored lights that wrap the outside of the tree.

Then add garlands, weaving them in and out of the tree. Horizontal weaving works best for thick garlands, vertical for thin, glittery strands.

Find out how to choose and care for a living Christmas tree.

Hanging your tree ornaments

Don't hang all your ornaments on the tips of the branches, instead place some ornaments and other decorations on the inner branches and at the top and bottom of your tree to add depth and interest.

Start by spacing the ‘filler ornaments’ evenly around the tree - the basic solid-colour balls that come in a wide range of shades. You need about 20 for every two feet of Christmas tree and can buy them cheaply in your chosen colour scheme in most major supermarkets.

Mix treasured ornaments between the basic baubles - at least 10 special (possibly themed, e.g. Disney, animal, fairy) decorations for every two feet of tree. High street stores such as Debenhams and George Home have some cute designs like red felt hearts, hand-crafted owls, gingerbread men and old-fashioned painted glass baubles, so shop around.

Then hang the largest ornaments, spacing them evenly apart. Fill in around them with medium and small sizes, balancing the overall look. Finish with unusual, statement baubles – try glistening gold glass pheasants, £12 for two, or white ceramic angels’ wings, £2.50, both from Rockett St George.

Try making your own Christmas tree ornament with this simple foraged fairy design.

Add a tree topper

This is your ‘wow’ factor. Choose a huge bow, a glass ornament, an angel, fairy or a star - something that makes an impact at the top of the tree. Try to link it in with the theme you've chosen for the tree, by colour, design or both. Not On The High Street has an eclectic selection of fairies, felt stars, Father Christmas’s, angels - even a kitten with wings!

Add a skirt

You need a skirt to hide the bucket the tree is buried in or the plastic base of an artificial one. Crepe paper is the traditional cover-up but use your imagination: if your tree looks rustic and includes hand-made ornaments, wrap the bucket in a tartan rug or piece of hessian or brown paper and tie with a twist of twine or rope.

If it’s sleek and sophisticated, opt for a length of bright satin in your chosen colour scheme, or use silver foil and secure with a huge bow. Then stack wrapped-up presents against the base.

Read our suggestions for great way to wrap presents.

On the high street

Need to update your decs? Then take a wander down the high street – there are some wonderful colour schemes on offer and they don’t cost a fortune.

From Sainsbury’s you have the American look, featuring red & white hearts and knitted baubles; an icy, winter wonderland palette of white, grey and silver mixed with cool blues; and a traditional look of tartan, check bunting, bows and robins.

Ikea has two main ranges: Nordic Light – pretty pinks and pastels with blonde woods and geometric shapes - and Nostalgic Traditional, inspired by classic Christmas romance with delicate lacework, antique metals and solid wood decorations.

Next offers classic red and grey decorations featuring hearts, snowflakes and animals; and a sophisticated grey, white and mixed metallic range.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.