A history of Christmas lights

Published 10:16 am Monday, December 18, 2017

Few American holidays have the amount of instantly recognizable iconography as Christmas. Christmas trees, snow, stockings, snowmen, ornately wrapped gifts and of course, Christmas lights.

Christmas lights seem to come in endless varieties of colors, length and sizes. The decoration of homes across the country with an assortment of red, white, green and even blue lights is more than tradition, it’s a culture. Christmas light shows are a popular activity for families to enjoy during the season, and people seemingly transform their homes into a wonderland of only using lights, but also Christmas themed displays.

Everyone knows and enjoys Christmas lights, but what is the actual history behind the decoration?

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The creation of the Christmas light can be traced back to, surprisingly, Thomas Edison and his partner Edward Hibberd Johnson — who was also involved in the forming of General Electric.

According to a piece published at Smithsonian.com, before the Christmas lights were invented, candles were used in Christmas trees, which was of course, highly dangerous.

The light bulb was still a new invention and electricity was not yet widely available, but that didn’t stop Johnson from brainstorming an idea that would become synonymous with the holiday.

Johnson placed a tree on a revolving pedestal in his shop and strung 80 hand-wired lights to the tree. They were red, white and blue. He powered this display with a generator. He placed the tree in in the window of his shop and called the local press, who reported on the display as a site to behold. With this one idea and personal project, Johnson started one of the most recognizable traditions in the Western world.

It took some time for the stringing lights on Christmas trees to become a widespread phenomenon, but by the 1930s, it was everywhere, and today an estimated 150 million sets of lights are sold in America every year. A staggering 6 percent of all electrical usage is used during Christmas time every year to power these lights.

Information for this article can be found at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/untangling-history-christmas-lights-180961140/.