11 outdoor Christmas lighting ideas to bring a festive glow to your front yard

Try one of these outdoor Christmas lighting ideas to make your whole house sparkle throughout the holidays

Pre-lit golden reindeer in a Christmas garden
(Image credit: Lights4fun)

These outdoor Christmas lighting ideas will help you achieve irresistible kerb appeal during the holiday season. And – let's be honest, we all need a bit of glow and sparkle in our lives, especially during the darkest time of the year.

Outdoor Christmas decor ideas using lights are some of the most impactful, whether you are going for all-over fairy lights, a tastefully lit porch, or just a couple of pre-lit decorations. 

Whatever your decorating style, we have an outdoor lighting idea that will match it.

Outdoor Christmas lighting ideas: top tips

The key to  successful outdoor Christmas lighting ideas is understanding the individuality of your home. Ross Harke, outdoor lighting specialist and Co-Founder of EverLights (opens in new tab), told us that 'taking a wide view of your home when you're deciding how to decorate with lights is key.' 

In practice, this means highlighting 'the unique architectural features of your home with lights. The most important tip here is to make sure everything is lined up to give that wow factor.' Ross reminds not to neglect driveways and paths: 'try lighting up the path to your door with lights with easy-to-use stake Christmas lights.'

Kelly Fitzsimmons, the owner of Light Up Your Holidays (opens in new tab), adds that using 'professional-grade holiday lights will last season after season' even though 'they are no small investment. Start small and add to your collection of lights each year. LEDs will be easier on your electricity bill.'

1. More is more! Max out on fairy lights

Home and garden decorated with fairy lights


(Image credit: Fotomicar/ Getty)

Less isn't always more when it comes to Christmas – ultimately, only you can decide how many lights are too many, and if you want to cover your entire house and driveway with lights, the rules are there are no rules.

However, to keep your maximalist Christmas lighting scheme looking great, stick to small LEDs, icicle lights (opens in new tab) like these from Amazon, and fairy lights – one of the best garden lighting ideas. Avoid too many strings of larger lights, as they'll look clunky. 

2. Prefer understated? Decorate just the perimeter

California Home decorated with Christmas lights and decorations


(Image credit: ejs9/ Getty)

If you prefer a simple and minimalist decorating theme, then just arranging a string of LED fairy lights (opens in new tab) from Amazon or icicle lights along the perimeter of your home, or even just along the front porch, can look really nice. 

For the ultimate elegant effect, we advise matching the tone of your lights to the coloring of your house: so, if your house is painted white, go for cool white lights; if it's brick or painted a warm color, go for warm or golden lights. 

Or, follow the rules of halves and keep one half of the house lit with cool lights, and the other with warm. The effect will be very elegant.

Festive front porch decorate with warm white and cool white lights

2m 64 White LED Connectable Icicle Lights (opens in new tab), Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

3. Create a magical outdoor Christmas dining scheme

A Christmas outdoor dining scheme with candles and starburst lights

(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

If outdoor Christmas dining is on the cards for you this year, lighting will play a crucial part in bringing your garden party ideas to life. 

Cluster lighting, also known as starburst lights or firework lights, will add a shimmering, festive effect if you suspend multiple clusters above the dining table. 

And, of course, candles and lanterns will help create a cozy Christmas centerpiece  that will illuminate your guests' faces beautifully. 

LED firework fairy lights hung from an awning over a table

200 LED fireworks (opens in new tab), Walmart

(Image credit: Walmart)

4. Create a glowing pathway with paper luminaries

Log home decorated with Christmas lights and luminaries on the walkway, Anchorage, Alaska


(Image credit: Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo)

To create a cozy Christmas lighting theme, line your driveway or garden path with luminaries (opens in new tab) like these from Amazon. These simple bag-shaped lanterns are traditionally made from paper, but look for more durable and weatherproof plastic designs. 

They work especially well if you don't have permanent lighting along your drive. There are lots of designs to choose from, plain or patterned – we like Christmas –patterned ones for the truly festive look. 

5. Add festive cheer with a lit-up snowman

Pre-lit snowman figure in Christmas front yard

Gemmy Industries Light Show Snowman (opens in new tab), Walmart

(Image credit: Walmart)

How cute is this little dude? Well, actually, he's not even that little, and why should he be? One of the pleasures of outdoor Christmas lighting is that other people will see it too, so the large size is a good thing.

We would recommend keeping to just one oversized lit-up Christmas decoration, whether it's a snowman or reindeer, though, to prevent an overly cluttered look.

6. Can't resist the reindeer? Create an elegant installation with them

Festive pre-lit reindeer in a front garden

Light up reindeer (opens in new tab), Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

If it's reindeer or nothing for you, we get it: lit-up reindeer are such a festive classic, many of us just can't resist them.

And yes, they can look elegant: we recommend getting a group all from the same brand and creating a realistic display with them. 

You won't need many other lights, either – keep the deer the centerpiece of your front yard for a really striking effect.

7. Go for an LED projector for a soft look

Electric LED Projector Light casting white snowflake shapes onto a home facade

(Image credit: Bed, Bath, & Beyond)

Want to try something a bit different? An LED snowflake projector light (opens in new tab) like this one from Amazon will give dramatic coverage for your whole house while looking soft and not overly bright. It's definitely more of a gentle glow than full-blown sparkle, but still looks very festive. 

You can also choose a laser light (opens in new tab), also from Amazon, that will cast a myriad of little lights all over your garden and house – a truly magical, laser-snow effect that's very contemporary and unusual. 

A laser light in green used as part of an outdoor Christmas decorating scheme

(Image credit: Bed, Bath & Beyond)

8. Choose candy-colored lights for a cheerful look

Christmas decorations and multi-colored lights at private home, Bend,Oregon,USA

(Image credit: Regula Heeb-Zweifel/ Getty)

If you don't want your outdoor lighting scheme to look too serious, some of the best Christmas lights are multi-colored outdoor lights (opens in new tab) from Amazon. The soft, cheerful shades of green, red, blue, and purple will work their magic on even the darkest of wintry front yards. Add a few decorations, and you'll have a fairytale display worthy of your brightest childhood Christmas memories. 

Kelly points out that 'white lights are certainly a more classic and refined look, but colored lights are fun and festive. If your kids are begging you for multicolored lights, but you prefer the elegance of the warm white lights, have them select a tree in the backyard that gets decorated however they want!' After all, one of the biggest Christmas decorating mistakes is doing something you and your family don't love!

9. Set your porch aglow with copper fairy lights

A Christmas porch decorated with wreath and copper fairy lights

(Image credit: Steve Smith/ Getty)

Outdoor Christmas lighting is all about adding warmth to the darkest time of year, and the warmer the tone of your lighting, the better you'll be able to achieve this. Copper outdoor lights (opens in new tab), sold by many retailers on Amazon, are the warmest you can get and look especially wonderful against a wooden porch. This is one of those Christmas porch decorating ideas that are timeless and will suit almost any house.

10. Get a Christmas silhouette light for a delicate look

Christmas train rope lights on Franklin Road, Auckland

(Image credit: Vadim Boussenko / Alamy Stock Photo)

What could be more Christmassy than a Christmas train silhouette light (opens in new tab), available from Amazon? Well, maybe a Santa's sleigh silhouette light (opens in new tab) (also on Amazon). Lighting and Christmas installation in one, a silhouette light, or rope light, is perfect if you want maximum effect with minimum effort. Great for a porch, or a part of your Christmas window lighting ideas.

11. Don't forget your outdoor trees

An understated outdoor Christmas lighting scheme with fairy lights on tree

(Image credit: Dobbies)

If you are blessed with a tree in your front yard, it's definitely worth decorating it. From tree wrapping to just hanging a string of lights in the crown, there are many ways to decorate outdoor trees for Christmas. It's well worth putting in the effort – the result will be magical.

How do you light up your house exterior for Christmas?

If you want to know how to hang Christmas lights, Ross Harke advises to 'remember there is more than just the roofline to consider. Look at what other areas of your home, like the border of your windows, columns, stair rails and other unique architectural features of your home.'

Kelly Fitzsimmons cautions against using net lights for decorating your home exterior: they 'can make the task of holiday lighting go faster, but the result can sometimes fall flat. Often nets don’t cover entire bushes or trees.'

Fitzsimmons recommends instead 'following the natural lines of yard and house elements' which 'makes for more organic and complete-looking light displays.' Also, 'now that the leaves are gone, wrap the trunks and branches of deciduous trees in lights, or drape them to create a free-form design.'

How many lights do you need to decorate outside?

According to Harke, the best way to determine how many lights you need 'is to measure your roofline first. There are apps you can get that let you do this with your phone, so you don't have to get on your ladder with a measuring tape. Then you can look at your Christmas lights and order accordingly.'

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

SPONSORS