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Christmas Math: How Many Ornaments Should Go on My Tree?

“Math is everywhere,” they told us as kids as we huffed and puffed through concepts expressed through numbers, letters and symbols. “How does this apply to real life?” we wondered as we punched numbers into calculators that made graphs on tiny screens. Old World Christmas specializes in gorgeous hand-blown glass ornaments, not math, however one equation is important to us, and we believe that math ensures a beautiful Christmas. We believe that only math can answer the age-old question of how many lights and ornaments should go on each tree. 

Math students from the University of Sheffield went where no man has gone before to research and test their Christmas decorating theories and to calculate the perfect Christmas tree to Christmas ornament ratio. The public was lost without this equation. How many ornaments are too many? How many lights are too few? Too many and the natural beauty of a sturdy Noble Fir is lost. Too few and tree swallows up the sparkle of the ornaments. 

After extensive research and exhaustive study the students revealed the perfect formula. 6.2 ornaments per foot of Christmas tree is the most pleasing ratio of tree to ornament. For example for an average-sized five-foot tree, 31 ornaments, five strands of Christmas, 25 feet of tinsel (if you enjoy finding slivers of silver around the house in May), topped off with a tasteful 6-inch star would result in the correct amount, and most pleasing to the eye. For an easy cheat sheet broken down by the foot the ratio is as follows: 6.2 ornaments, 100 lights, and 5 feet of tinsel.

But, the equation doesn’t end the debate. Even on Old World Christmas’ staff, there are employees that stand by putting hundreds of ornaments on their tree. They decidedly do not adhere to the 6.2-ornaments-per-foot ratio. There are staff members with multiple trees to hold their extensive ornament collections. One unnamed employee hides half of her collection from her husband because they already have three Christmas trees beautifully decorated with the other half of her collection. 

Once the ratio is taken into account then the fun begins. Most people decorate their Christmas tree with their collection collected over years and years of celebrated Christmas seasons. Others choose a new theme each year or every few years. Many have multiple Christmas trees in their homes to express multiple themes. Maybe the kids get a small tree for all the homemade ornaments, the medium tree in the TV room with all the sports-team ornaments, and the grand tree in the living room with this year’s theme of travel or Santa or nature. 

Decorating Christmas trees with ornaments is a nostalgic, exciting and special time recounting memories, relationships and events. There are no limits to the creativity and expression you can communicate through a Christmas tree. This year, as the holiday season quickly approaches, your tree can be a light, a reflection of beauty in a dark and challenging world. Considering the tree-to-ornament ratio might be a great starting point to this year’s gorgeous Christmas tree. 

October 22, 2020 by Rachael Mitchell

Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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