Christmas is, without a doubt, the most beautiful holiday of the year. The singing, the food, the presents, the trees, and especially the lights, don’t forget about the lights. Christmas lights are usually the first decorations to go up and the last to come down during the holidays. They are the first sign that tells you that yuletide is near. You hang them on your trees, houses, your car, office buildings, city streets, some even hang them on themselves!
But have you ever wondered where those lights came from, why we hang them, and how they got to where they are today?
Flashback to Europe in the 16th century, and like most Christmas traditions, the idea that spurned the Christmas lights began in Germany. They were first recorded in use around 1539 by the Cathedral of Strasbourg. The German Lutherans of that time decorated Christmas trees and put lighted candles on them. These candles were usually attached to pins or melted wax and were used to signify the light of Christ. Fast forward to 17th-century Europe, and it became adopted by Christians around the same time the Christmas tree came into use. Eventually, the tradition made it to the Americas with the wave of settlers.
With time, some began to replace the candles with lamps, but as you can imagine, the problem with both the lamps and candles was that they constituted a fire hazard, with many homes getting burned down due to it. Families mitigated this by only keeping them on for a short amount of time and by keeping a bucket of water near the tree at all times. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that electrification began to replace these candles and lamps.
By 1880, the great inventor Thomas Edison had already invented the light bulb. But he needed a way to advertise it, so he hung it outside his laboratory for passersby to see. It wasn’t until a few years later that Edward H. Johnson created the first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree. Edward was an associate of Thomas Edison, and he had the brilliant idea to solve the problem of fires caused by Christmas trees. He hand-wired 80 red, white, and blue incandescent bulbs the size of walnuts and wrapped them around a Christmas tree at his home. He called local newspapers to cover the idea and was initially ignored by them until one of them picked it up. Before long, the idea took off, and various businesses began to adopt it. This was further encouraged by the fact that even several US presidents started decorating the Whitehouse with Edward’s Christmas lights.
General Electric eventually bought the patent for the idea from Edison, and they began selling it to the public. But in a time when most homes lacked electrification and installation was expensive, it was very hard for the average person to adopt it. It wasn’t until the 1930s, with the electrification of the US, that they replaced the candles. By the late 19th Century, the Christmas lights became the norm around the world and were synonymous with Christmas.
Over time, the incandescent Christmas lights have been replaced with safer and more affordable options, but the significance of these lights remains. It signifies light and hope for a better tomorrow as we move into a new year.
If you are hoping to see the best Christmas light displays in the LA area, book your tickets to Holiday Road Los Angeles today! This one-of-a-kind all-ages holiday event features incredible light displays, visits from Santa, souvenir shops, food trucks, holiday-themed cocktails and more! We hope to see you during our upcoming Winter season.