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The holiday season is a wondrous time- filled with cheer and magic. Amidst the festivities, one essential aspect often stands out—lighting. The right illumination can elevate celebrations, leaving lasting impressions that linger long after the holidays fade.

From Christmas to Halloween, Easter, and every cherished occasion in between, outdoor holiday lighting plays a pivotal role in setting the ambiance.

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Below are 5 tips to consider when lighting your outdoors for the holidays.

1. Create a theme

The holiday theme should guide your lighting choices. This does not mean overly elaborate or lavish lighting. There is much charm in simplicity. Work with one, simple theme. Do not plan to put one type or color of lighting in one area, or another somewhere else.

For example, if you are planning a Christmas lighting display, you might choose a theme of stars, angels, or Santa Claus, but not all three. If you are using colored lights, in strings of Christmas lights, the display will be more dramatic if you limit them to one or two colors.

Holiday lighting often produces the best results when integrated with the interior lighting of the home so that guests can react to the total holiday environment. This blending of lighting effects presents an inviting unity.

But, whatever the theme selected, remember the principles of a lighting composition apply, and that the lighting will include the;

  • Dominant (accent) lighting
  • Secondary (Task) lighting
  • Fill-in (General or Ambient) lighting

Holiday lighting

2. Features to illuminate

Illuminate architectural marvels—eaves, front entrance pillars, railings, windows, doors, and stairs leading up to your door. Don’t forget to assess bushes, trees, window boxes, planters, garden beds, driveways, and pathways for fun lighting possibilities.

Employ string lights along pathways, net lights for shrubs, and subtle colored glow for statues and fountains. Use perspective lighting to emphasize the garden’s expanse and structure—light garden water brightly as a reflecting pool, shimmering fountain, or glowing backdrop. But don’t neglect to provide a few quiet havens of soft, diffuse light or near-darkness for those guests who want a retreat.

Focus on subtle lighting for the most attractive parts of your front yard.

You may be accustomed to putting strings of colored lights all across the house frontage, but many homes look better with lighting that just outlines a balcony or window.

Gathering Spots:

The actual outdoor entertaining will usually take place on a patio, around a barbecue, at the swimming pool, or in a garden area.

For a quiet gathering of close friends, light small garden areas intimately and provide a soft background of uplighted trees and shrubs. Add to this small accent light focused on subtle garden textures and colors. and perhaps some mini-lights draped in a bed of ground cover or arrayed on an attractive shrub.

For larger parties, you can bring out the spectacular, theatrical lighting effects that would be too overpowering for everyday use.


Trees are favorite subjects for holiday lighting.

You can string the lights in a random pattern, in a conical pattern by running vertical strings from the tip down to the base, in a spiral pattern from the top of the tree down, or in horizontal rows around the tree.

If you are stringing lights on a tree, whether Christmas lights or clear mini-lights, calculate how many lights you need like this: To make the tree solid with lights, figure the height times the largest diameter of the tree times 3 to get the number of bulbs you should use. To light with a special pattern or accent the tree’s shape, multiply the height times the largest diameter times 1 to get the number of bulbs.

Protect a living tree from damage by hanging the lighting wires from ornament hooks rather than from the small branches.

Walkways & Front porches:

A lighted display for Christmas or another holiday is usually intended to be seen from the street, so you may want to build it in the front yard.

The walkway to your home, for example, may be adequately lighted for safety and attractiveness, but not for festivity. Strings of Christmas lights may be used to light each side of the walkway, or they may be festooned along a series of upright poles to create an air of excitement on the evening of a holiday party.

Added lighting at the entry helps establish a party mood and heightens the expectations of the arriving guests.

Holiday lighting tips

3. Use Dimmers & Zoning

Install dimmer switches instead of standard toggle switches to control most of the fixtures. This will enable you to focus just the light and intensity you want on each garden area ideal for the occasion.

In addition, zoning allows you to group your lights and control them independently for effects such as light intensity, colors, and other fun effects.

4. Observe Safety

Connect outdoor lights to circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to ensure safety. Identify the nearest electrical outlets and equip yourself with quality extension cords if needed

Because strings of Christmas lights and other holiday fixtures may be used infrequently, check the cords for any sign of fraying or damaged insulation before using them, and make sure the lamps are working.

5. Budget Wisely

Decorations chosen for the holiday scene need not be expensive. Many can be purchased, or you can fashion your own. But whatever the decorations chosen, they can be accented with light to be more appealing through the late evening hours.

Next, create a prioritized and itemized shopping list for each location you plan to decorate, in order of importance to you. Include the quantity of lights or decorations needed for each space, any required accessories, and the current price for each item.

Calculate the total cost of your entire outdoor Christmas decorating project based on the prices listed on your prioritized shopping list. Depending on your budget, you may divide the project into smaller phases and decorate specific locations this year while saving others for the following year. Alternatively, if there’s room in your budget, you can add some extras.

Light it Up

Remember, holiday adornments need not be extravagant to exude charm. Blend store-bought and homemade decorations, accentuated by strategically placed lights.

Instead of spending your holidays hanging and fixing Christmas lights, consider hiring a professional installer. They can take care of the entire process, from design to installation, ensuring your safety and allowing you to focus on enjoying time with your loved ones.

That’s it for now!🤗

George Gitau

Meet George, an advocate for traditional craftsmanship. I will provide you with educational content, techniques and ideas for your next garden and home improvement project. Together, let's create beautiful spaces that are not only beautiful but also functional

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