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The History of Christmas Lights: How Did the Tradition Begin?

By Anne Clarke 

Originally, Christmas lights were used in Germany in the homes of only the very wealthy as long ago as the 17th century. This was before electricity, and the lights were actually candles. They were only used on trees at that time, and were strategically placed to illuminate the ornaments that hung from the branches. The candles were held in place by either gluing melted wax to a tree branch or using pins to hold the candle. Around 1900, candleholders were being used, and by 1915 small lanterns and glass balls became a means of holding the candles in place.

Then, in 1882, Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric Christmas lights. He lit up a Christmas tree in New York City with 80 small electric bulbs. Within 20 years, stores were displaying electric lights and they were being mass-produced and sold to customers. Then, in 1917 there was a tragic fire in New York City there was a tragic fire caused by candles on Christmas lights. Albert Sadacca then invented safety lights for Christmas trees and created a multimillion dollar company that became the largest Christmas lighting company in the world (NOMA Electric Company).

The outdoor Christmas tree that ran on electric lights became very popular throughout North America and the use of them began to regularly take place all over the world shortly thereafter. Decorating a live Christmas tree outdoors became the attractive thing to do, and many people still do it today, some even going as far as to decorate it as well as they would their own indoor tree.

This slowly evolved into using electric lights on trees not only outdoors, but indoors as well. It also led to the use of lights for houses that everyone uses today. It took many years for Christmas lights to become what they are today, and many ideas and inventions helped lead us to the brightly lit and decorated homes and yards we see every year.

 


Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for websites on gardening, parenting, recreation, education and décor. Her background includes teaching and gardening. 

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