The easy way: head down to your local electronics store and pick up a TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug (or similar). They start at $34, and you can also get ones with built-in energy monitoring, or smart power boards where you can control each individual plug from your phone, and they’re the most reliable of all the smart plugs I’ve used.
Plug one into the wall socket or power board, download the Kasa Smart app and follow the easy four-step set up to connect to your Wi-Fi, including naming it something helpful (like Christmas Tree) and then plug the Christmas lights into the unit.
In the Kasa app you can add schedules for powering on and off, and you can pick which days. I have mine set to come on at sunset every day, and off at 12:01am on weekdays (because if I’m still seeing my tree past midnight on a weekday, I do not deserve the joy of having it lit up) and 2am on weekends.
And then that’s it. Bask in the glow of your tree at the appropriate times.
The cooler way: why limit your newfound scheduling skills to the tree? Incorporate your other smart home devices (or if you don’t have any, grab some colourful TP-Link lights which also connect to Kasa Smart) by creating a Google Home Routine.
To get started you’ll need a smart speaker with the Google Assistant, and the Google Home app on your phone (either iPhone or Android).
First step is to connect TP-Link to your Home so Google can control your smart plug and/or new lights, and there should be a prompt at the top of the Home app to do that if you have everything on the same Wi-Fi.
Then you can add a routine through the Home app, pick a voice command (I chose “make the yuletide gay”), then set actions. Since you’ve named your lights, plugs and any other appropriate smart home stuff you can just describe each action to Google in plain language, like “turn on Christmas Tree”. I made some of my living room lights turn green and some red, and of course had the Christmas tree turn on.
For extra flair, I highly recommend adding media while you’re setting the routine up in the Home app, and getting it to play a festive song or album. You can choose to trigger Whamagedden, or go with my personal favourite Christmas album, Hanson’s classic Snowed In.
Hit save, and after that all you need to remember is the command and lie in wait for the appropriately festive moment to trigger the routine to the delight/irritation/other desired emotion of the assembled company.
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.