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The Bright History of Christmas Lights!

Hear from our experts on Everything LED Lighting

Christmas is right around the corner! The halls are decked, the tree is lit and the presents are under the tree. A significant part of the holiday season is stringing up lights in and out of your home. As with all Christmas trends and traditions, Christmas lights have changed over the years, leading up to today’s popular trend of LED twinkle lights. Today, we getting a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Light’s Past to walk us through the history of Christmas and Holiday lights!

The Beginning: Christmas Trees and Candles Aren’t a Match Made in Heaven

Before the dawn of electricity, the only way to light a Christmas tree was to use wax candles. As any Christmas tree owner today knows, electric lights on a dry Christmas tree is still a hazard today. This tradition began in Germany in the 17th century and made its way to Eastern Europe before crossing the pond and becoming popular in the United States.

As you can imagine, due to the hazardous, albeit beautiful, image of a Christmas tree alight with candles, it was common for trees to be purchased, decorated and lit only a few days before Christmas, being taken down immediately after. By 1908, these Christmas tree fires were so common, insurance companies refused to cover the costs of the damage!

Between 1902 and 1914, tree lanterns and class ornaments with candles became the more popular tree lighting choice.

Let There Be Light: The Introduction of Electric String Lights

The world saw the first tree lit by electric lights in 1882, courtesy of Edward Johnson, an inventor who worked under the direction of Thomas Edison. He lit a tree in New York with a whopping 80 electric lights. String lights began mass production in 1890, and by 1900 department stores were using these lights commonly in their storefront displays.

While these new electric lights were a safer alternative to literal candles, they were not cheap. Many magazine advertisements suggested renting Christmas string lights. This may explain why tree lanterns and ornaments to hold candles were popular up until the 1910’s.

A New Electric String Light in Town: Safety Christmas Lights

While electric Christmas lights greatly reduced the commonality of Christmas tree fires, although they were still common enough for Albert Sadacca to create a safer, less flammable version of the popular string light in 1917. Sadacca’s family was in the novelty business, including novelty lights. He incorporated some of these items into safer Christmas lights. In the first year, he only sold 100 white gold lights. The next year, switching to multicolor lights, Sadacca’s business was on its way to becoming the multi-million dollar business it would soon be. He would go on to start the company NOMA, which became the largest Christmas lighting company in the world until 1968.

The String Lights You Know and Love: Incandescent Christmas Lights

Incandescent Christmas lights are now one of the most common lights around and can be found in a variety of stores worldwide. You’ll often find these types of string lights in a few different shapes, the first being the mini or fairy light. These are the ones most often used to decorate trees, wreaths and outside of homes. They are small, spherical and shape and come to a point.

The other most notable type of incandescent bulb is a rounder, larger bulbs, more popular for outdoor decoration.

Christmas Lights of the Future: LED String Lights

LED string lights have taken off in the last few years, thanks to their energy efficiency and significantly cooler bulbs. This makes them the best option for Christmas lighting indoors and out. You can find them in a variety of styles, similarly to incandescent lighting. The first reached popularity between 1998 and 1999, when they first seen in homes. By 2005, the Capitol Tree was lit with a mixture of LED and incandescent string lights, and just the next year the Capitol Tree was solely illuminated with LEDs. By 2007, the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree in New York was also lit 100 percent by LED string lights.

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Posted in LED Lighting for the Home

Tagged Christmas, Christmas lights, Happy Holidays, Holiday season, LED Christmas lights