ho-ho-oh-no! a pre-lit tree that doesn’t light


My oldest was born right before Thanksgiving. Perhaps that’s why my husband, ever the type to think ahead, didn’t point out the obvious when I sent him out to get a narrower Christmas tree that was pre-lit while I stayed home with an infant. All was good the first year, the second, even up to the fourth year. Then strands started going out, one by one. At first we were able to replace a bulb here and there but by last year, we were out of replacement bulbs. So we took a bulb out of the tree and went to three different stores, trying to match the size. No such luck. We borrowed and tried a friend’s As Seen On TV light strand fixer. No luck. So with two eager kids wondering where their tree was, we went out one last time and got a strand and put it over the dead one. Not pretty, but it worked.

This year, I was determined to find a solution. Surely someone out there in bloggy land had one, right? Wrong. I came across only three suggestions that made sense. 1. Buy a new tree, sans lights. 2. Cut all the lights off the tree and restring. 3. Douse the tree in lighter fluid and have a bonfire. The first choice seemed like a waste and as it turns out, finding a tree without lights is harder than it sounds. The third seemed a bit extreme (not to mention the fumes issue) so I gathered up tin snips and wire cutters and got to work. After about an hour and one tall kitchen garbage bag full of cut wires later, the third idea was sounding better. I stuck it out though, and in just under three hours, had a lightless Christmas tree.

For anyone wanting to try it at home, cut, cut cut. I thought at first that snipping and unwinding the wire as I went would be the best way to go. The tree, however, had other ideas. Since the tip of each branch has a looped wire over it, it’s quicker to just cut as many places as you can see, starting on either side of the bulb. Give the tree section a shake and a lot the pieces will fall off. Then start pulling off the wires that remain. It’s not painless, but it’s better than sending a perfectly usable tree to a landfill.

Got a pre-lit tree nightmare to share? Let’s hear it! — Sarah L.

From our partners

Oh no! The bottom row of lights on my tree went out last year and I was hoping for an easy solution too. Sometimes I miss the old fire-bug strings – when one bulb went out, the others stayed on.


I went through the same thing last year. Got the tree for free from someone giving it away on CL thinking “No problem, I’ll just take the old lights off and put on my own.” No go. It was awful. I had to cut the string lights off of each individual branch, plus there were about 10,000 green plastic bits holding the wires onto the branches. I was glad to get the tree for free, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. Took the better part of the day to clear the old lights and then kept finding green plastic clips around the house (cats) for the next few months. I laugh now, because the whole thing was really goofy.

Just went through this is my parents’ house. Started to unwind the lights but ended up just cutting…it went a LOT faster. Of course re-stringing the lights took a while. My first tree was not pre-lit and I was happy to re-light every year (for the same reasons you stated) but my new tree, which is also narrower like yours, came pre-lit. It says the lights will stay lit if one goes out, but we’ll see. I like the size and shape of it, so maybe when it goes out I’ll just re-string it as well.

I think the whole pre-lit thing is a racket, btw. I was at the same point you were: you start messing with unstringing and at that point you just want to buy a new tree and not deal with it anymore. I think this is exactly what they intend. Planned Obsolescence is a big money-maker!


Is it really hard to find an unlit tree these days? Even online? I’m not doubting you, I’m just surprised. I have a fake tree without lights–I can’t remember why we bought it, as before that we had real trees. There was a reason, though. Maybe the cat was a kitten then? Then we had the baby, and since then we’ve been too lazy to get a real tree again. There’s a lot to be said for fake trees, even though I love real ones. No mess, can keep it longer, no cat drinking the water…. Anyway, I specifically bought one without lights as I worried about what would happen when the lights went out, and also I like colored lights, which are less common (and were even more so five years ago when we got it.)