What Are the Red-Tipped Christmas Lights For?

One of the beauties of Christmas is the array of lights in different colors and lots of people enjoy adding these lights not only to their Christmas trees, but also outlining windows, to their porches, and more! Some people may wonder what those red-tipped Christmas lights are for that are included in the light boxes and kits.

The red-tipped Christmas lights are for making string lights flash on and off, giving a twinkling effect many people enjoy. Some even call the lights ‘fairy lights’ because it’s so magical looking. Most Christmas lights include a red-tipped bulb in the boxes of string lights, as well as extra fuses.

Below I’ll explain a bit more about the red-tipped Christmas lights, including some troubleshooting, and other embellishments used (besides red-tipped lights) for making Christmas so festive looking!


An Overview of Red-tipped Christmas Lights

Most lights are considered ‘static’, meaning they shine continuously. However, a very popular trend is to have twinkling lights, that is lights that go on and off in a repeating pattern. This is made possibly by the red-tipped bulb.

When you attach the red-tipped bulb to a strand of Christmas lights, the strand will then flicker. The red-tipped bulb is also known as the ‘flasher bulb’. These bulbs may come in different sizes and voltages, but they all have a signature appearance so that it’s easily recognized: a red-tipped end.

Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of the light bulb, but it was Edward H. Johnson, the vice president of Edison’s Electric Light Company, who’s called the Father of the Electric Christmas Tree after decorating his family tree with 80 specially made red, white, and blue bulbs! (Source: Popular Mechanic). 

Around the 1920s, it’s thought the first twinkling lights were used. Since then, people have embraced lights at Christmas from simple to elaborate- some timed with music, even!

What Does the Red-Tipped Light Mean?

Red tipped bulbs like these from Amazon just have one sole purpose: to add flashing sparkle to your Christmas set. These bulbs are designed in such a way that once they are swapped with any other bulb on a string of Christmas lights, the entire section begins to twinkle just like it.

It’s pretty easy to add a red flasher bulb to your lighting string. All you need to do is carefully disconnect one of the other bulbs from the socket, fix in the red flasher, and voila, the blinking begins. 

What if your red-tip flasher doesn’t work?

Even though it’s pretty simple to add the red-tipped flasher to your string lights, sometimes it doesn’t seem to work. If this happens, there a couple troubleshooting steps you can try.

  1. One, carefully read the directions included with your Christmas light box or kit. Sometimes it’s just a matter of attaching the red-tipped flasher bulb accurately.
  2. You can always watch some tutorials on YouTube too. It’s often helpful to see it rather than just reading instructions.
  3. Make sure your red-tipped flasher isn’t broken.
  4. Keep in mind sometimes strands work only for one string at a time depending on how the circuit is connected. You might need to attach more than one red-tipped bulb for your whole strand to flash/twinkle.

If you tried everything and it’s still not working (i.e. ‘twinkling) then you might have a faulty string of lights and need to return them to the store for a new, properly functioning set.

You might also like these articles from Hopeful Holidays:

Why Are Twinkling Lights Hard to Find?

Nowadays, you may have a problem trying to find ‘regular’ twinkling lights, the kind that use the red-tipped Christmas light bulbs. Why is it so hard to find?

It’s harder to find red-tipped Christmas lights nowadays because more stores stock LED lights since they are an economical and safe option. LED lights don’t use red-tipped twinkling flashers, but have a twinkling option. However, many still prefer the older-style bulb ‘look’ at the holidays.

Though LED lights are popular for good reasons, there is research about negative effects of LED such as headaches and damage to retinas. For that reason, some stick with using mini-lights with red-tipped flashers to get the twinkling option.

It’s still possible to find these in stores, though it may require some diligence. As well, you can purchase them easily at Amazon (linked).

What Are the Little Things That Come With Christmas Lights?

When you get the mini-lights incandescent boxes, they usually come with some ‘extras’, such as the red-tipped flasher bulb for twinkling effect as well as extra fuses.

The little things that come with Christmas lights are the fuses. The fuses act as a safety barrier. If one blows, it keeps the rest of the lights functional. Or it turns all lights off from working as a different kind of safety measure.

Therefore, when you open your box of lights be sure not to accidentally toss the light things that come with the Christmas lights, too! Those little things come in handy now and then!

Other Things To Use Besides Red-Tipped Christmas Lights

However, there are some other ‘little things’ you might need to adorn and embellish your Christmas tree and holiday environment’s decor.

There are traditionally five major elements used in the adornment of a Christmas tree. However, in recent times, folks have begun to explore and come up with many other items to be included on a Christmas tree.

Mentioned below are the traditional Christmas decor elements:


Ornaments alone can take up to 60% of the entire layout, and as such, there is a vast range of options to pick from: shiny balls, plastic boxes, picture frames…you name it. You can add anything to your Christmas decorations..

The size of the tree can discern the number of ornaments suitable for a tree, so to say, the bigger the tree, the more ornaments it can carry.

Sometimes people like to purchase ornament based on a theme. I had a teacher-friend who changed her tree every year! One year the ornaments were all ‘super hero themed’ while the next she replaced the ornaments with ‘snowmen themed.’

It’s expensive to do this, but her family really enjoyed the tradition of ‘change’ and she often gifted or sold her old ornaments, so it wasn’t ‘all waste’.

Tree toppers 

To most people, a Christmas tree topper like this from Amazon is the crown of the entire tree, so they put off fixing it till all other pieces have been set on the tree.

Two most popular kinds of tree toppers are stars and Angels. But this too can change. For instance, for years, a blue glittered penguin topped our tree! It was the choice of our daughter.

However, once she grew up and moved out of the house, I exchanged the penguin (much to her dismay) and put up a beautiful, elaborate gold and white-decked Angel with a harp in her hands. To the day, the Angel is always atop our tree!


A Christmas garland is a must-have in every Christmas setting. Garlands can either be artificial or natural.

Artificial garland is often red, blue, silver, or gold. Sometimes it’s artificial but in natural colors and includes red berries. Natural garland is made of evergreen pine, sometimes it includes pinecones too. Often people attach bows to garland.

You can hang your garland on a wall, deck the fire place mantel, and/or down the stair banisters. Garland is often draped decoratively around the Christmas tree, too.


Baubles can also be classified under ornaments, but they aren’t the usual red and green balls. New and improved Christmas baubles come in an array of many different sparkling colors, which will seem to be an essential addition to your Christmas tree adornment.


Tinsel used to be the shiniest of Christmas decor back in the day. There were swaddled around Christmas trees in their different colors to endow the tree with more shimmer and shine. Tinsels were, however, ruled out in the late 1990s because they were manufactured from the lead at the time, and lead was discovered to pose a health threat to those exposed to it, especially the young.

Tinsel can also be hazardous to pets. I remember our kitten eating tinsel and though she ended up okay, it was quite scary!

Thereafter, people began to switch to ribbons, though the ribbons did not exude as much luster as the original tinsels did. Ribbons can be shiny, velvety, or old-fashioned burlap.

However, tinsel manufacturers resumed their production due to demand, but this time, they used plastic instead of lead as the raw material.

Nativity Scenes

Last, but certainly not least, no Christmas home is complete without a Nativity scene. Nativity scenes show the true focus of Christmas: the Christ child with Mary, Joseph, and a stable.

Nativities can be natural and realistic looking or more serene and ethereal. Some include animals like sheep and cows. Others might also show the ‘three Wise Men’ and shepherds.

Asides from those mentioned above, there are other ‘little things that can be used to brighten your Christmas setting:

  • Candles
  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Candy canes
  • Wreaths
  • Silk flowers
  • Bells
  • Poinsettia 
  • Christmas gifts
  • Stockings
  • Ribbons
  • Ropes

What Do Christmas Lights Symbolize?

Many people hang Christmas lights to show their Christmas holiday spirit.

Christmas lights aren’t just there to spice up your scenery. Though artificial, they do have deep symbolic significance aside from the decorative aspect. 

The light and candles at Christmas are reminders that Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe is the reason for the season, is the true light of the entire world. Essentially, Christmas lights represent a way to share the message of Christ with others during the holiday that celebrates his birth .

The lights also motivate Christians to lead a lifestyle that portrays the light and purity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Are the Colors of Christmas and What Do They Mean?

Some say there are twelve Christmas colors for the 12 respective days of Christmas. Others are of the contrary opinion that there are generally 5 Christmas colors that can be used throughout the Christmas season. Then again, some people purposely select ‘non-traditional’ Christmas colors to use at Christmas time!

The traditional colors of Christmas are:

  • Green: Green is present everywhere during Christmas, from the evergreen leaves of the tree to the garlands and lights. Green is associated with fertility, good luck, success, better days ahead, and many other positive ideals that we wish for ourselves and others for the coming year.
  • Red: The red lights used during Christmas symbolize the blood of Jesus, which he would later shed on the cross for the redemption of humanity. It also connotes the earnest and passionate manner in which Christ loves all his children on earth. Red has also become synonymous with Christmas through the icon, Santa Claus.
  • White: White is likened with purity and peace, both of which are compatible with Christ’s nature. The white lights symbolize Christ’s sanctity and chastity. People also think of white at Christmas in hopes of snow, too.
  • Blue: The Catholic Church has adopted the color blue as the official color of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. It makes sense that a mother should be involved in a celebration pertaining to her son. The blue lights signify the royalty and prestige bestowed on the blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. Some also see blue as a Christmas color based on the popular Elvis song, ‘Blue Christmas’.
  • Gold: Gold lights are often used as a link to the gift from one of the wise men to Jesus at his birth (‘gold, frankincense, and myrrh’). Gold also is reminiscent of the star in the sky, denoting Christ’s birth.

Wrapping Up Red-Tipped Christmas Lights

To conclude, the answer to the question, ‘what are the red-tipped lights for’ on Christmas strings, is: they’re for making a standard strand of lights twinkle.

Red-tipped lights provide a way to create a twinkling effect and enhance Christmas decor.

Remember if you have trouble getting your string lights to twinkle using the red-tipped flasher bulb, follow the troubleshooting suggestions given above.

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