Traditions of Christmas: Christmas Lights

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The idea and shape and form of Christmas lights have greatly transformed themselves since their inception in the 17th Century.

In 17th Century Germany, the idea of decorating a Christmas tree with lights began in which small candles were attached to tree branches with either melted wax or pins.

During this time Christians began burning lights in their windows to symbolize the house was a Christian home.

Queen Victoria brought the idea of an illuminated Christmas tree to the UK during her reign.

The first electric, outdoor Christmas display was presented by Thomas Edison in 1880.  “He displayed the lights outside of his laboratory compound, which sat near a railway where many people could see it each night. This was the first official outdoor Christmas display that was separate from decorating just the Christmas tree.”

Edison’s protégé, Edward Johnson, created the first string of Christmas lights a few years later.  That first string of lights contained 80 small electric light bulbs.  By 1890, strings of Christmas lights were being mass-produced sold.

President Cleveland lit the first electric Christmas tree at the White House in 1895.   This brought national attention to the idea, which then began to spread.  However, it would still be a while before anyone but the wealthy could afford to decorate their Christmas trees.

After the turn of the 20th Century, Christmas lights in retail stores and government buildings became popular.  In time, this gave way to outdoor displays.

In 1925, three brothers formed NOMA which created safe Christmas lights.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree began decorating with lights in 1931 but did not use electric lights until 1956.

As electricity became more common in homes and electric lights became more affordable the ideas of decorating with Christmas lights grew and expanded.  Christmas lights changed from huge bulbs to tiny bulbs.  Lights went from being just white to living color.

With the change came huge Christmas displays that people began to flock to.  Today, you can watch TV shows that show some of these more audacious displays for our enjoyment.