The sight of twinkling lights in homes at Christmas helps deliver a swell of excitement that comes with the start of the festive season. Lights on fir trees, twig trees, floral displays, around mirrors and within arrangements of decorations make for seasonal magic.
Vintage versus Vibrant
Lights for your Christmas tree fall into two basic categories: fairy lights or the more popular LED lights. Traditional fairy lights emit a subtler glow than LEDs and have individual filament bulbs that are inserted into the bulb holder. It can be the case that if one light goes, the whole string may not light and you will need to check each bulb to find and replace the culprit. Manufacturers have increasingly circumnavigated this issue with a string of lights that stay illuminated even if one bulb fails. Regardless, you will need to retain the small supply of spare bulbs that come with each vintage string of fairy lights.
LED lights are now the choice for most as they are long-lasting and reliable. They require no replacement bulbs and it’s claimed will last for more than 100,000 hours. Unlike fairy lights, they give off no heat, which also makes them much more energy efficient and safe. You are also able to use the majority of LED lights outdoors as well. This will be clearly indicated on the box. So, too, will the number of functions the lights can perform: from static to flashing, from strobing to pulsing.
Elf Helper: Check how easy and safe it is to connect several strings of the same type of lights together. Will you need to use more than one plug socket? Will you need a plug extension cord? Examine the voltage. Never take a risk where electricity is concerned. Call an expert if necessary. And for fixing lights without putting holes in your wall, try Command strips. Visit amazon.co.uk or the brand’s own website.
The size of your tree will determine how many sets of lights you need. A general rule of thumb is around 100 lights for every 45cm or 18 inches of tree. Therefore, a 2m or 6ft tree would require around 400 lights. But really this all comes down to your own taste and the kind of impact you want to make. If you opt for the bigger berry bulbs or ornate star bulbs, you will need fewer lights. It’s all about obtaining balance. We feel, like with most everything else at Christmas, being generous with lights works better than being miserly with them. Once the strings of lights are on your tree, switch them on, stand back, screw up your eyes and view the image through the squint. You will immediately see if you have an even spread of lights and where there are dark gaps to fill. Hardly scientific, but it works.
White or Rainbow Delight
The colour of lights you choose depends on the overall effect you are trying to achieve in the room. Vivid colours can look stunning on white artificial trees and strings of multi-coloured fairy lights are ideal if you want to capture that retro feel. Christmas memories for many are made of chunky bulb lights in red, blue, yellow and green. Such sets are readily available. We are a nostalgic age.
For a traditional fir we suggest using warm white lights. Brilliant white lights may better suit a contemporary theme.
When considering colour, think also of the cable. Green obviously works best with the majority of trees and black cable can become equally lost in the lush green branches of real or artificial trees. But white or clear cable is essential for white artificial trees and can also prove the better option for general festive lighting within the room, especially in a white, contemporary setting. Mini light bulbs on thin copper wire are among the newer trends.
There are any number of styles of Christmas lights available – be it snowflakes, lanterns, stars or berries. They are on shorter wires and have fewer bulbs per string. As such, they can be useful for embellishing garlands or illuminating smaller trees.
Strings of lights are commonly used for Christmas displays away from the tree, draped from curtain poles, edging windows, wrapped around banisters and so on. We also suggest you explore curtain lights. At around 2m in width and with a choice of drop lengths, they can be highly effective in transforming an area into a magical space. LED net lights do a similar job but the regular spacing of the bulbs doesn’t have the same twinkling attraction for us as curtain lights.
The Arch Angle
Candle arches can be seen in some windows as the festive season approaches and can also provide a focal point within a room. This is the simplest way to add artificial light: buy the ornament, plug it in. Job done. Displays of greenery, vases, bowls of baubles and room decorations can also be enhanced by the addition of a small set of battery-powered lights.
Recap and Ponder
LED or fairy lights
Colour of lights
Number of lights
Colour of cable
Length of cable
Style of light
Battery, mains or solar
Indoor, outdoor or both
Inter-connectable strings or not
Lighting Websites To Help
There will be numerous shops and garden centres selling festive lighting but you may find it easier to compare the various types and styles online. For starters, amazon.co.uk and christmastimeuk.com have comprehensive selections, including for commercial installations, of both indoor and outdoor lights. We also have more on indoor/outdoor options in our Outdoor Lights section, including a pointer towards the excellent companies lights4fun.com and thechristmasdecorators.co.uk and mention of laser projectors. Christmas Direct at xmasdirect.co.uk also provides indoor and outdoor lighting solutions, from twenty mini lights for a children’s bedroom to large installations on Oxford Street, London. The company behind the dazzling 2011 Boots commercial sourced lights from Christmas Direct, which has even supplied trees for BBC drama “Holby City”. Check out the light delights at melanieporter.co.uk, like the Pompom Fairy Light Wreath, Holly Fairy Lights and the Contemporary Holly Light Wreath. And we’re not done there. Another excellent online source for perusing and purchasing lights is christmastreesandlights.co.uk.
App Option: The Future is Here
What is this? Controlling your Christmas lights with your mobile phone? Yes, indeed. You can now buy sets of lights that allow you to turn them on, change their effects and even play music through them via a handy app. These Palm Control Multi-function Warm White LED Lights are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Once you’ve put the lights up, simply download the free app – available for both Apple and Android – and take full control of your building’s illumination. The lights are operated by Bluetooth and can be controlled from anywhere there’s a connection.
Tap into Tapestry
Shimmering LED and fibre optic tapestries, pictures and canvasses are increasingly popular and can be found in department stores like John Lewis, as well as numerous garden centres nationwide. Tapestries featuring artwork by Thomas Kinkade, Nicky Boehme, Dona Gelsinger and Denis Lewan can be viewed and purchased at christmastreesandlights.co.uk. Prices range from as little as under £20 to around £60. Snowtime is another company synonymous with fibre optic wall art. It also markets illuminated glass decor, with the hurricane-style LED warm white lights bearing images of Father Christmas a range worth exploring. Check out lumineocentre.co.uk.