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How to Tell Exactly How Many Christmas Lights You Need

Lifehacker logo Lifehacker 28/11/2021 Elizabeth Yuko
© Photo: William Warner (Shutterstock)

There is an unspoken rule dictating that any Christmas comedy must include a scene where one of the characters gets completely tangled in strings of holiday lights. And while that situation may be funny onscreen, when it’s happening in your living room, it can be hard to find the humor in it.

In fact, pretty much everything about these strings of tiny clear or colored lights is annoying and a hassle—including knowing how many feet of them to buy to decorate your tree. Fortunately, the editors at Real Simple have put together a handy guide to help you figure out how many feet of these lights you’ll need for your tree. Here’s what to know.

There is a formula (sort of)

Of course there are countless variables when it comes to the size of Christmas trees (especially the live ones), but as a general guideline, for every foot tall it is, you’ll need one strand of lights with 150 bulbs, prop stylist and crafter Karin Lidbeck-Brent told Real Simple. Most people tend to get trees that are around six-feet tall, she says, so that would require six strands with a total of roughly 900 bulbs.

Other factors to consider

When it comes to decorating Christmas trees, Lidbeck-Brent knows what she’s talking about: She has decorated more than a thousand throughout her career. And, as helpful as having a formula may be, she also stresses that there are other factors to consider when purchasing lights for your tree. These include:

  • Width of the tree: The formula focuses on a tree’s height, but they can vary significantly in width, too. If your tree is especially broad, you’ll need more lights.
  • Amount of light it gives off: If you want a super-bright tree, opt for lights that have 200 bulbs per strand. For a subtle, dimmer tree, choose strands with 100 bulbs. Lidbeck-Brent considers 150 bulbs per strand a happy medium.
  • Extras: Accidents happen, or sometimes you finish putting lights on a tree and realize there are gaps, so Lidbeck-Brent recommends buying an extra strand or two, just in case.
  • Storage space: How much room do you have to store all these lights the other 11 months out of the year?

Sure, you could wing it, but going in with a plan will make the whole process easier. “Figure out what your priorities are before you start decorating,” Lidbeck-Brent told Real Simple. “If you want your ornaments to show and be the star, use fewer lights. If you overdo it on the lights, the glare will bedazzle your ornaments so you won’t be able to see them.”

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