Should you hang your Christmas tree lights vertically instead of horizontally?

There’s a viral TikTok I read about on Huffington Post where you run your Christmas tree lights up and down the tree vertically in a “zig zag” pattern. Most of us, including me, do it horizonallly. When I saw the title “You’ve Been Hanging Your Christmas Tree Lights All Wrong” I thought it was a clickbaity title to useless tip like those folding hacks that are impossible to do unless you train at The Gap. It’s surprisingly easy and awesome-looking though. I’ve included the original TikTok below and also a follow up, where the original creator, Clare Hoops, eats popcorn while watching user Kristi Reedy put the lights on her giant natural tree that way. It’s said to be quicker and easier to do, easier to switch out if one of your light chains breaks, and easier to take off. Plus it takes less lights! Here’s what they said in the videos if you can’t listen:

Claire Hoops’ original TikTok
If you coil your Christmas tree lights you’re doing it wrong. Decorating Christmas trees used to be part of my job. We use the zig zag method it means you don’t waste lights round the back of your tree and if a set breaks you can take them off really easily.

Kristi Reedy, follow up
Each year we get a large real tree. One of the most difficult parts is putting lights around the tree. It never fails we run out of lights and have to run out and get more or midway through the season one strand of lights will go out and it’s next to impossible to change the lights out once the ornaments are on. I saw another creator… instead of going horizontal around the tree she goes vertical. That way if a strand goes out it’s much simpler to take them off… it also takes a lot fewer lights.

Now that I saw this I’m mad I didn’t hear about it before I put my lights and decorations on my tree! I do the horizontal method where I start at the bottom and go row by row, going on top of one branch and under the next one repeating that all the way up. It’s a pain in the butt and invariably involves some cursing. Then you have to hang all the ornaments on top of that. This is a reminder to myself to try this next year! My tree is fully decorated and there’s no way I’m redoing all of that to try this out.

As a sidenote, I got a new artificial tree this year from that fancy mail order tree place, Balsam Hill. I got the cheapest 6.5 foot model, which was on sale for $200 and it came just two days after I ordered it! I wanted to get one from Lowes, the local big hardware store, but it was more expensive and had a delivery cost. Balsam Hill didn’t pay me for recommendation, although I’ll do some social media posts about them if they send me one of those big lighted wreaths. The tree looks really pretty and is close to natural-looking. Plus they sent two pair of gloves with it so you can fluff it out. It’s much nicer than the ratty one I had from Target.


This method saved me so many times 🎄#christmasdance #mumslifeinlockdown #festiveness

♬ Rocking Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee


#duet with @kristireedy this explains the zig zag method way better!!! Thnx for sharing #festivemood #christmascountdown #christmasdance

♬ Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms



photos credit: Pixabay on Pexels, Karolina Hotyur and Jung Ho Park on Unsplash

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30 Responses to “Should you hang your Christmas tree lights vertically instead of horizontally?”

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  1. Gina says:

    This is the first year I have my own tree and decorating..solo Christmas because of the virus. It’s fake 3 feet tall. I saw the TikTok tried it vertically and it works I had lots of extra lights. Plus it was super easy.

  2. Seraphina says:

    I have had my eye on a tree from BH but it’s so much money and my tree is from target the light are not working and I am annoyed I have to string in extra lights 🙁
    But as my friend says to me when I complain: first world problems.
    Love your comment about the lit wreath. Also, love this site, I learn so much – from politics to the BRF to how to string Xmas lights.

  3. Chris says:

    Oh, I think it makes sense that it’s easier and more efficient, but I personally don’t think it looks better. Maybe I’m so used to the coiling method though. If burnt out bulbs are a problem I would suggest LED lights, they last a long time and don’t get hot like traditional bulbs. That is a very clever alternative. I won’t argue that uncoiling lights after Christmas is an easy or fun process.

    • Darkmatter says:

      You can zig zag the lights horizontally? It would still be efficient (no lights in the back) but also pretty.

    • Size Does Matter says:

      Agree, I don’t get it. It has too many lights concentrated at the top and too many gaps lower down. But I’m hella lazy with my pre-lit tree so kudos to anybody out the hanging lights.

    • Ariel says:

      I concur. Maybe its aesthetics or nostalgia, but i enjoy the horizontally placed lights.

    • Eliza says:

      They do it in stores because it’s faster and easier. But yes, slightly uneven as more at top. I pack the lights in a ball so they’re not tangled and you slowly unspool (like yarn) as you go around. Then respool as you take down. No swears this year. I decorated the tree in less than 20min (I think doing it alone helped though).

    • Zengirl says:

      I also prefer the horizontal, around the tree look. I watched the video excitedly and then realized I thought it was pretty ugly (to me anyway). I don’t like the way you can see the cords going vertically up, outlining the tree. I like to tuck mine in and get lights all the way into the center and coming out. Yes, it is a pain in the a– though!

  4. Alexandria says:

    Celebitchy you should get on TikTok now while the Diana craze is ongoing…more Gen Y and Z should know how Harry and Meghan have been gaslit! Oh and more of other royal gossip from Europe. I’d reckon post vaccination there will be a lot more royal and celeb fashion to cover!

  5. Honora says:

    Can’t click on the tiktok due to boycott but yeah that looks great. Interesting that it’s been done one way for so long!

  6. Esmom says:

    That is brilliant. And it makes so much sense I can’t believe it hasn’t been widely known before, lol. I’m also mad that I already decorated because wrapping them around the tree was such a pain in the ass.

    I got an artificial tree last year from Target and like it. My kids were very anti-fake tree but when they both came home from college and saw it they didn’t even realize it wasn’t real until I told them. That was another milestone, them not caring if they weren’t around to decorate. Sigh.

  7. Zaya says:

    Yeah I saw it on tiktok and want to try it but haven’t gotten a tree yet (and might not get one this year).

  8. backyard mogul says:

    Yep! I started doing that a few years ago and it looks so much better. This year I left the lights to my hubby and teenaged sons and they did it horizontally. I decided to leave it as is because no one else is going to see the damn tree this year anyway…

  9. Juls says:

    This is neat but I will continue to coil horizontal because I like to double each layer, where one pass is deep in the tree, closer to the trunk, and the second pass on each level is more towards to outside of the tree. Yes, its a lot of lights. But thats how I like it! I also do the same with those plain ball ornaments, I hang a lot of them closer to the trunk . Its a great way to fill in gaps on a live tree. It also gives the tree lots of depth and dimension, and the lights hitting them in there is really pretty!

    • EMF999 says:

      That’s how I do it too! Having two layers of lights and ornaments really makes it all pop.

    • Livvers says:

      Agreed! I need my tree to glow from the inside out like an angelic tree-spirit from heaven above. This year I put about 20, 50-light strings on my tree, starting from the trunk and doing 5 horizontal passes from the trunk all the way to the outer branches. And like Mabs A’Mabbin below, my outermost strings are wrapped along the branch tips as much as possible.

      I’m happy for people to have an easier way to apply lights if that is their style, but extravagant and picky is my Christmas decorating approach and it gives me great satisfaction.

  10. Amy Too says:

    I also really don’t like how it looks. And I don’t get why you wouldn’t put lights around the back of your tree either. Don’t lots of people put their tree in front of a window? Even if it’s against a wall, if you’re looking at it from the side, you’d still see the back a little bit.

    • lucy2 says:

      Same here – I can tell they’re put on vertically, and it doesn’t look right to me, and I put my tree near a window so it would look funny from the outside to not have lights all the way around.

      I have my pre-lit tree up, but no ornaments. I may try a couple, but I don’t trust my cats.

    • Ainsley7 says:

      Yeah, It definitely doesn’t look as nice. I can see how it would work better if decorating Christmas trees is part of your job. You would be changing out dead strands and such all the time. Most people only have the one and ours don’t burn out with the kind of frequency she’s talking about.

  11. betsyh says:

    ATTN BALSAM HILL: I must have Celebitchy’s review before I buy a big wreath. So please send her a free wreath!!!

  12. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m kinda prickly about my lights (big surprise). I don’t go around and around if the tree is in a corner, but I do coil, wrap branches and minimize wire exposure. I like the lights to look embedded in as many branches as possible lol. 😁

  13. minx says:

    That cat! Too cute.

  14. GuestwithCat says:

    I don’t care how anyone strings the lights. I’m just here for the cat.

  15. BeeCee says:

    I cheated and bought a 6.5 ft pre-lit artificial tree. Easy Peasy! Pop the 3 sections together, fluff the branches, plug it in, done!

  16. IMUCU says:

    My husband runs the largest Christmas store here in the Southeast (Tamp Bay area) so we have pre-lit life-like tree. I miss the fresh ones, but only if you can get them right ftom a Christmas tree farm (like I did growing up in SoCal) bc by the time they are transported down here from the north they are so dry. Pro-tip about lights & pre-lit trees: check all your strings fot burnt put bulbs before you put it away everything away. Then replace each burnt bulb; if you leave bulbs in, it overloads the rest of the working lights causing them to burn out quicker, then your whole string will go out and you don’t know which few bulbs are causing the problem.

  17. Jessie says:

    I use icicle lights! I wrap close to the trunk in a spiral from top to bottom then spread the icicles outward and up and down. It’s fast and full coverage