I’m Alexandra. An American girl living in Dublin, Ireland. I honestly document my adventures in travel, food, beauty, and expat life on a budget.

How to Decorate A (Fake) Christmas Tree

How to Decorate A (Fake) Christmas Tree

Hi guys! I am loving these Christmas posts and am going to squeeze every little bit I can out of my favorite time of year! Last year was the first time I had ever properly decorated my very own Christmas tree. In college my roommates and I always had cheap, tiny trees that either plugged in to be lit up or only needed a handful of decorations to make it look filled out. Once I finally settled into a place that felt like home in Ireland, I wanted Christmas to feel really special there. 

Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I made a conscience effort to put some money aside and purchase a few affordable bits, including a fake tree!  Growing up, we always had a fake tree in the house, but I was never involved in the actual putting of it up. My mom is very particular about how the tree looks and I wasn’t interested in any other aspects besides putting on the ornaments so when it came to put my own tree up, I was not prepared. In case you’re in a pickle like I was I have written this quick guide to help you hopefully avoid similar mistakes when putting up your tree. I keep my tree pretty simple and these basics of putting the tree up, lights and ornaments on, and dealing with tricky toppers will get you started on your Christmas tree decorating journey.

Most fake trees come in two parts – a bottom half and a top half. The bottom half has small slots every few inches where you are to place the branches in. These branches vary by size and will get smaller the further you go up the tree.

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Putting up a fake tree seems pretty straight forward, and it is in terms of putting together all the parts. What I wasn’t aware of was that you had to position the branches to make the tree look like an actual tree. Um, duh I think to myself now. When I put the bottom half up, all I did was slot the branches in and it was so ugly! I immediately called my mom and asked her why her tree didn’t look like this. She explained to me that you have to move the parts of the branch around to make the tree look full. Maybe I am the only person who had no clue about this but once we were off the phone, I went back to my tree to examine the branches. There were so many pieces!  I just hadn’t realized it, lol. Once I got to work on pulling the branches apart, the tree began to look significantly better. 

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It may take you a minute to figure out how you want the branches to be on your tree but spending time on this is so worth it for the final result. Remember, your tree is going to be up for a few weeks, so you will want it to look good while it is up.

After you have your tree up and your branches spread apart it is time to put up the lights. My mom always took forever to put up our lights, but our tree always looked spectacular, so it was well worth the wait. The reason the lights looked so good was because my mom weaved them into the entire tree, not just once around the outside portion. 

I personally find this the most difficult and annoying part of the entire decorating process but if you want your tree to look presentable you need to pay attention to the detail of the lights! I have found that starting on the bottom and working my way up has been the most efficient way to get the lights how I want them. Because I have a fake tree and I can do the lighting in 2 halves this also makes my life a lot easier. I am going to try and explain as clearly as I can how I light the tree.

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The first thing I do before I even put the lights on the tree is plug them in to make sure that they still work. No point in doing all this work to only find out after that your lights don’t twinkle! Once I know the lights are good to go, I start at the very bottom and go inside the tree, as close to the railing holding the branches up as I can get and start to weave the lights around the bottom row of branches. Once I have circled the inside of the bottom row, I move to the outside portion of the branches. At this point you should see that your bottom branches are well lit. I repeat this process until I reach the top. This method isn’t hard, but it is time consuming. I only have a small tree, so I would seriously consider purchasing a pre-lit tree when (read if, lol) I own my own home.

Another piece of advice I would offer would be to buy the correct amount of lights for your tree. I naively thought one box would cover my tree just because I thought it looked like enough in the box. Surely, I would know better than this box that states how many boxes you need depending on tree size?? Not surprisingly I was wrong and had to make a second trip to the store just for another box! Just buy the extra box and if you end up not needing it you can return them.  

If this is your first time lighting a tree, don’t be discouraged. I did get frustrated last year trying to figure it out and I still don’t do my lights as good as my mom. I probably won’t be as good as her for a few years, but I can say that putting lights up this year took significantly less time than last year!

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Your tree is starting to come together now that the branches are looking full and the lights are placed to perfection, but you still need ornaments! Putting ornaments on when I was young was so fun, but I threw them all over the tree with no order. My mom was never far behind spacing the ornaments out and I didn’t understand what the big deal was. The big deal is your tree will look a mess if you don’t spread the ornaments out throughout the branches. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have many ‘personal’ ornaments yet, but I am looking forward to adding more to my collection as the years come. For now, I use an assorted mix from IKEA that fill out the tree nicely. My mom always kept a few plain ornaments to fill in gaps on the tree and break up the look of all the other ones collected along the way. Like the lights, it is important to put ornaments inside your tree as well to really bulk out the appearance. I have a photo of what I mean by this below.

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The tree is nearly done but all you are missing now is a topper! The topper in my house growing up was a big Santa head that my grandma made! It is so unique, and I have never seen anything like it in anyone else’s home. Hopefully my mom and dad will pass it on to me one day! I would love to have it on my tree in my own home and tell my children that their great-grandma made it. For now, though I have a metal star from Dunnes that cost me about €10. I had quite the time trying to get this to work last year! I had completed my first step of spreading all my branches out and was left with the top branch sticking up for me to place my topper on. One problem, my topper was way too heavy for this one puny branch. No matter what I did I could not get this topper to stay straight, it swayed from one side to the other, backwards and forward. The solution I came up with in the end, while not the most aesthetically pleasing, was to use some of my top branches to help keep the star in place! I bunched them back up again, pointed them straight up, and put the topper on. Maybe not the best looking, but it worked, and my topper didn’t move again. This year was made easier knowing that I would have to do that, so I didn’t waste any time fluffing out branches only to have to undo my work no time later. 

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Like I said earlier, I keep my tree simple, but if you decide you want to add more than what I have here, go for it! You may find yourself in a situation of needing to adapt (like the topper!), but that’s a part of anything in life so just go with it! Your tree doesn’t have to be perfect and any little adaptions along the way make it unique. If you have any Christmas tree tips, please share them with us all in the comments below. Happy Decorating!

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