Christmas Lights Buying Guide

Christmas lights add a festive twinkle to any display - great for lighting up features, walls, table displays or the more traditional use of decorating your Christmas tree. Gone are the days of simple fairy lights, nowadays there is a mind-boggling selection of Christmas lights for indoor and outdoor use.

Choosing Christmas Lights

Christmas lights have traditionally been used to decorate Christmas trees, but there are many other uses for them during the festive season. Lights make a brilliant backdrop to any displays or centrepiece decorations, and also look good fastened around windows, doors, staircases - anywhere you like!

With so much choice available, it is worth understanding the differences between different types of lights, as some are better for trees and others better suited to arrangements. Individual light fittings and bulbs are wired together on one cable, which can be shaped for a specific use, or in a simple straight line, allowing you to drape lights in different ways to achieve what you want.

Some common features and considerations to look out for when choosing your Christmas lights:

Features & Considerations When Buying Christmas Lights

  • How many lights do you need? You can find strings of Christmas lights with as few as 20 bulbs, which may be all you need for a small feature or arrangement. For trees, windows and larger displays, you will probably need more individual lights to get the effect you want. A small tree of around 3ft height would need around 100 lights to look festive. Larger light sets can have up to around 400 individual lights on one cable, which will be sufficient to cover even the largest and grandest of trees.
  • Plain or multi-coloured? You have a choice of plain white or clear lights, or perhaps a single colour to match your theme, or there are multi-coloured options for a more random effect.
  • Static or moving lights? Many lights have the option to create effects such as twinkling, flashing, slowly fading in and out, soft glow, random and chaser effects. Animated effects are usually controlled by a small box panel attached to the cable. If you choose lights with animation functions, you can also select a static setting for lights that are always on. Alternatively, if static lights are your preference, you could opt for a set of lights without this feature.
  • Lead length is usually detailed on the box or product specification. This refers to the length of 'spare' cable between the plug and the start of the lightbulbs. Ensure this is sufficient to reach a plug from the location you have chosen for your tree or feature.
  • Easy tree lights are arranged in a way that makes dressing a Christmas tree easier. Rather than one long string of lights, these have a loop which is threaded over the top of the tree, with a number of cables that run downward from the top of the tree to the bottom.
  • Pre-lit Christmas trees are a quick and easy option if you are buying lights for a Christmas tree, with the lights already attached evenly to the branches.

Christmas Lighting Variations

You can also choose from many other variations, such as curtain lights - designed to hang differently, creating a curtain of lights across an area such as a window or wall.

Outdoor Christmas Lights

Not just for indoors, decorative lights can also be used to make the outside of your home festive.

Some Christmas lights are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, so as long as you have a suitable power outlet, that is all you need. Other types of light are designed solely for outdoor use, and include a transformer to ensure electricity is delivered safely outdoors, at a lower voltage.

One simple idea for a festive garden makeover is stake lights, which need only be pushed into the ground. These can be solar or battery operated, and do not require any wiring.

(For more information on all types of outdoor lighting, you can also refer to our outdoor lighting buying guide).

For Christmas, you may wish to push the boat out and give the outside of your home a full festive makeover. Festive lights for outdoors can take the form of standard fairy lights, strung onto a cable, which can be draped or affixed as required.

Other novelty lighting for outdoors can take many forms: Santa shapes, snowflakes, snowmen, reindeers, whatever takes your fancy. Rope lights are a more sturdy variation on string lights - protected by a clear plastic outer tube, these can be wound or hung very easily, without snagging.

Some households like to cover their entire house with decorations, lights and novelties for Christmas, and this is often used as a fundraising effort for charity. If you like this idea, you could start with a large set of rope lights, and add a few novelty lights around doors and windows. Finish with some novelty decorations, of which there are a great number on the market, including figurines, banners and inflatables to help show off your house.

Maintenance and Care of Your Christmas Lights

After Christmas your lights will need to be taken down and stored carefully until next year. Consider a storage reel, which will ensure the cables don't get tangled. Check for damage before storing. Spare bulbs are supplied with Christmas lights so you can easily replace any that get broken or wear out.