It’s one of my favorite signs that the holiday season is officially here – Christmas light displays popping up around the neighborhood. From large, elaborate displays designed to raise money for charity to smaller displays to showcase a homeowner’s holiday spirit, they never fail to bring a smile to my face. Every year, my husband and I schedule in at least one night simply to drive around, viewing the lights around town.
If you share my love of these festive displays, this guide is for you! I have compiled a list of fun and festive outdoor Christmas lighting ideas for every space and style. Whether you live in an apartment limited to a small balcony space or a farm with a large property, you can celebrate the festive season with your own unique outdoor decorations. There’s only one rule… Have fun!
Wrap Lights Around Potted Plants for Your Porch
A common feature on the front porch of many homes is a potted plant or two. Occasionally, these plants have been chosen due to their evergreen nature, allowing them to grow and thrive well into the colder weather. For those that love the holiday season, potted plants can do double duty. In addition to adding a natural element to your porch, they can also serve as miniature Christmas trees by wrapping them in light strings and incorporating them into your porch display. Choose your color options based on the lighting used in the rest of your decorating or opt for a bold accent color to stand out, creating a fun focal point. The options are endless.
Add Christmas Lights and Garland to Railings
An easy way to create a festive glow on your front stairs, porch, or balcony space is by focusing some of your energy on decorating your railings. The good news is that these areas are generally easy to decorate as they are a blank canvas with plenty of areas where you can secure decorations to keep them in place. One of the most common ways to incorporate lighting in this space is simply to wrap a string of lights around the beam of the patio railing or stair rails, however, you can also incorporate holiday garland and seasonal greenery for a more traditional holiday touch.
Choose Quirky and Fun Lights
With so many different holiday products on the market, you are no longer limited to just selecting your lights based on the color or size of the bulbs. In fact, there is a growing market of different outdoor lighting options ranging from basic white LED lights to elaborate smart lights that can be controlled directly from your smartphone. Among these, we are starting to see more quirky and original lights including those shaped like snowflakes, stars, snowmen, and more. Using these lights in areas where your guests are close enough o the lights to see their finer details is a fun way to add a twist to a standard lighting display.
Use Lights to Create a Display on an Exterior Wall
Do you have a large exterior wall that you would like to somehow incorporate in your holiday decorating plans? Rather than just stringing some lights haphazardly across the space or blocking it with larger inflatable decorations, try looking at this wall space as a blank canvas. By strategically hanging lights on the wall, you can create festive shapes and images, even a full holiday-inspired scene. The fun part about decorating in this way is that you can change it up year after year. This means that it will always be new and fresh without any additional cost on your part.
Wrap Trees with Brightly Colored Lights
Are you looking to embrace the bright colors and excitement of the holiday season? If so, you are likely drawn to decorating ideas that feature lights of different colors and patterns. Incorporate this into your own decorating by wrapping colorful lights around the trees in your yard. This can be done by sticking with one solid color on each tree, changing colors from tree to tree, or by using a string of lights with multi-colored bulbs to incorporate all your chosen colors on each tree that you decorate. This includes lighting up the trunk of the tree as well as any branches that are large enough to support lights and can also be applied to large hedges and other bigger plants in the vicinity.
Create a North Pole Sign with Red and White Rope Lights
Growing up with the well-known Christmas cartoons like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, we are all familiar with the iconic image of the North Pole – a singular signpost accented with stripes of red and white, identifying that magical location where Santa Claus himself can be found. The odds are good that you’re not heading out to visit the North Pole this holiday season, so why not bring this picture of festive cheer to your home? You can create your own North Pole by wrapping red and white lights around a post. This is a simple yet fun decoration that can add the perfect final touch to your winter wonderland.
Add Illuminated Reindeer to Your Front Yard
You have likely seen this holiday decoration gracing the front yards of houses in your area. These traditional wire or rattan reindeer glowing with soft white light are available at nearly any big box store. They often come with holly or red bows gracing their necks. Add a whole family of reindeer to your yard or choose just one to join your holiday celebrations. Not interested in reindeer? Their popularity has also inspired companies to create other holiday-themed friends including a penguin, snowman, polar bear, and more.
Use Battery-Operated Candles for a More Traditional Look
There is something truly magical about embracing a more simple and traditional decoration theme. The combination of fresh greenery, red velvet ribbons, and the soft glow of candles immediately puts me into a festive mood. Of course, most people avoid decorating with actual candles today due to fire-safety concerns, but this doesn’t have to rob you of enjoying the traditional aesthetic. Rather than burning an open flame on your front patio, why not create a display of candles using a battery-operated option. Simple battery-operated candles can be found at your local dollar store, however, for a more realistic appearance, you may want to upgrade to a candle that flickers similar to a real flame.
Work Lights into Your Window Boxes
Are you limited in the space that you have available to decorate? Don’t let living in a small apartment or shared living situation stop you from embracing your love of the holiday! This outdoor decoration idea requires minimal space, fitting entirely inside a window box. To begin, plant a variety of different plants in the window box such as the miniature evergreen trees that are sold in many stores and garden centers at this time of year. Decorate these plants by stringing mini lights around them, adding a festive glow. You can also incorporate other decorations such as a bow on the front of the window box or miniature ornaments hanging from the boughs of your plants.
Light up Your Mailbox
It’s that time of year when mail carriers across the country are overwhelmed with the large number of packages and Christmas cards to deliver. If you’re anything like me, holiday mail is something that brings a smile to your face. Who doesn’t love receiving holiday mail? This season, you can use your decorating to bring a smile to your mail carrier’s face as well. How? Add some fun and festive lighting to your mailbox. You can make it big and over the top, add additional decorations like garland and ornaments, or stick to a subtle festive glow. The choice is yours!
DIY Candy Light Garland
Transform your house into a real-life gingerbread house with this fun candy-themed garland. To create this DIY lighted garland, you will need thin plastic corsage boxed, rolls of cellophane in a variety of different colors, tape, ribbon, and a string of lights for each piece of candy in the garland. For each piece of candy, take a string of lights and a piece of cellophane, balling the two up together with the ends of the light strings extending on each side. Place this inside a corsage box with the ends extending out of the box.
Cut a piece of cellophane large enough to fully wrap around the corsage box as if you were wrapping a present. Tape the cellophane to the box as if you are wrapping a present. Gather each of the ends with the ends of the light string sticking out and secure it by tying a ribbon around it or wrapping the end with a small piece of wire. As you finish more candies, you can start to attach them to one another by plugging each light string into the next. This is a fun garland to hang around doorways and patio spaces.
Add Lights to Your Unused Vehicle
Do you have an antique or unused vehicle that you aren’t driving during the colder winter months? If so, you can incorporate that vehicle into your decorating this holiday season! Park your vehicle somewhere where it can be seen from the road or walkway. Run strings of lights along the top and sides of the vehicle. You can create stripes of lights or use them to highlight the different features of the vehicle. One classic addition that really finishes off the decoration of a classic vehicle is a traditional wreath of festive greenery hanging on the front. This is a great way to repurpose your vehicle during the off-season, however, it will involve leaving your vehicle outdoors in the elements. Those with highly valuable vehicles may not want to take this risk.
Light the Path with Trees or Candy Canes
In addition to adding some seasonal cheer to your property, Christmas lights can also be used for a functional purpose. One example is the use of holiday lighting along the sides of your front walkway, lighting the path for any friends or family that come to visit. There are many different smaller holiday-themed decorations that light up and would fit this use well including larger illuminated candy canes, spiral trees made from rope light, and miniature snowmen. You can use this technique to light up the sides of your driveway, lead people up the walk to the front door, or set out a pathway to access your winter-friendly outdoor firepit.
Frame Your Front Door with Garland and Lights
If you are looking to make a festive statement while welcoming any visitors to your home, this is the perfect outdoor lighting idea. Rather than just stringing your lights up on your front porch or entranceway, incorporate your lights with fresh greenery to create a traditional Christmas garland to frame the space. The subtle glow of soft white lighting will bring a smile to the face of friends and family, as well as set the mood for anyone that happens to be passing by your house. You can complement your garland with a matching holiday wreath and vases holding boughs of greenery on the front porch to tie it all in together.
Line the Roof with a String of Lights
One of the simplest and most basic ways of hanging your exterior lights is to run the lights along your roof, framing it with bright light and festive colors. Incorporate your lights into your overall decorating plan by matching the color of lights to other decorations or stick to a simple and subtle holiday look with just the lights on the roof and around the windows of your house. This can be done with any combination of colors including either one solid color or a variety of different colors depending on your personal preference. This may be one of the simplest and most straightforward light ideas on this list, but it’s also one of the most popular!
Swap Out Outdoor Lights with Festive Colored Bulbs
Does your home already have exterior lighting on the porch or around the house? If so, this may be the easiest possible way to decorate a little for the coming festive season. Go around your house and replace all your exterior lightbulbs with colored bulbs in your decorating color of choice. You can stick with a solid color, for example, lighting your house up green, or mixing in a few colors depending on your desired result. Just be careful, while red is considered a holiday color, a house that is glowing red with no other holiday decorations may look evil rather than showcasing your Christmas spirit.
Use Spotlights to Showcase a Festive Scene
For houses that don’t have many exterior lights that you can incorporate into your decorating plans, you may be interested in adding some outdoor spotlights to your box of holiday decorations each year. These simple lights can be staked into the ground in your yard, directing their vibrant glow in whatever direction you want. If you are setting up a festive scene in your yard, like a nativity scene, this is a great way to make sure that everyone can enjoy your decorating even after the sun has gone down. Spotlights also make a quick and easy decoration option for your house itself by painting it in a sea of festive colors with minimal effort. You can change the color easily by swapping out the bulb, allowing you to use your spotlights for a variety of different holidays and events.
Build Lighted Archways Along Your Driveway
Showcase your driveway when decorating this holiday season by building large lighted archways that stretch over top, creating a tunnel of light that you can travel through every time you come home. The archway itself will require a little DIY effort on your part. They can be built from wood or PVC; however, you want to be sure that you are staking your archways down to the ground to avoid having them blow over when the first major snowstorm of the season hits.
After you have the necessary structures in place, it’s time to add lights. Wrap each of your archways with standard LED string lights or rope lights. You can stick with a single color across all of the archways to create a long, uniform entry drawing visitors in towards your home, or mix in a little festive fun by swapping out the colors from arch to arch. Choose colors that tie into the larger decoration plan you have for your house and yard.
Illuminate Your Gate to Welcome Visitors
A slightly easier and more subtle way to welcome in your guests and add an accent to your driveway space can be accomplished by limiting your decorating efforts to just the gate leading into your driveway instead of decorating the full length of the space. There are many ways that you can decorate up the front gate area, creating a fun and festive sight for visitors and those passing through the area. Consider incorporating the color scheme used in the decorations on the actual house and yard, or incorporate bright, bold colors to make your gate an accent piece and the focal point of your outdoor decorations.
Set Your Lights to Music
If you are looking for a fun challenge in your outdoor decorating this coming holiday season, why not take your display to the next level by setting everything to music? These lighting displays feature lights that flash, blink, do a slow fade, quick fade, or give some other illusion of movement, with all these changes happening in time with popular Christmas carols and other songs associated with the holiday season. This could be isolated to just the tree lights on a single tree or incorporate all the lights on the property. Don’t forget to incorporate speakers to play your music of choice for all to enjoy.
Transform Your Tree into Santa or a Snowman
If you have a large evergreen tree (or two) in your yard, it’s the perfect opportunity to incorporate the most recognizable characters of the holiday season – Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. To start, you will need to create the main base by wrapping lights around the tree, using either red or white string lights depending on the character that you are building.
From here, you need to add the well-known accessories for each figure. These could be made from cloth, corrugated plastic sheeting, or any other material that can stand up to the elements at this time of year. For Santa Claus, you should include a Santa hat, a white beard, and a black belt with a large gold buckle. If you have chosen to create Frosty, you will need a black top hat, carrot nose, bright red scarf, and black coal buttons.
Go Minimalist with the Help of the Grinch
Are you looking for fun and comical decorating ideas that require minimal effort? If so, you’re going to love this one! All you need is a single string of Christmas lights and a wooden cutout or plastic figure of The Grinch. Run the lights along one side of your house from the corner of the house towards the center, allowing the end of the string to hang down from where the rest is secured. Place your Grinch figure at the place where the lights are hanging as if he is removing the lights from the house. Not only have you found a way to cut back on the effort needed to decorate your home, but you will also catch the attention of the whole neighborhood for your sense of humor.
Surround Each Window with a String of Lights
A simple way to add some light to the exterior of your home is to surround each of your windows with a single string of lights. This is especially effective if you have a large picture window in your main living space with your indoor Christmas tree visible through the window. Use extension cords to connect your lighting to power without extending the actual lighting past the window itself, creating clean lines. Choose twinkling lights to add a little more fun and variation, which can also be enjoyed from inside the room. As a child, this was always a favorite choice for my bedroom window as I could lay in bed at night watching the lights twinkling on the walls and ceiling of the room after the lights were turned off.
Keep the Utility Bills Down with Retro-Inspired LED Lights
Many traditional Christmas lovers appreciate the appearance of the original Christmas lights with their large bulb shape that not only glows with color at night but can also be seen and appreciated during daylight. While LED lights use far less electricity, the blunt bulbs simply don’t look the same. Luckily, in recent years, Christmas light manufacturers have come out with retro-inspired LED lights that offer the benefits of LED lighting while still showcasing the appearance of a traditional bulb.
Build a Christmas Tree with Lights and Tomato Cages
Tomato cages are basic wire structures that support tomato plants during growth, helping to prevent them from sagging or falling over. While they are a valuable tool for gardening, they can also be repurposed in your holiday decorating efforts. When turned upside down, the cages form a cone shape that resembles an evergreen tree. Wrapping green garland around the cage, pulling the wires of this cone shape together helps to transform your tomato cage into a Christmas tree that can easily be displayed on your front porch, on the sides of your front steps, besides your mailbox, or along your front walkway. Add a string of lights to your miniature Christmas tree to give it that festive glow.