Beautiful holiday light displays have become a popular part of Christmas and New Year celebrations all over the world. Today’s holiday lights evolved from electric Christmas lights that were invented in America during the late 1800s. According to Heidi Davis in “A Brief History of Christmas Lights,” the first electric Christmas lights were made for Edward H. Johnson, the vice president of Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company. Johnson “decorated his tree with 80 specially made red, white, and blue bulbs that he displayed in the window of his Fifth Avenue home.”
Using early electric Christmas lights was not simply a matter of plugging a light cord into a wall socket. It required both a generator and someone to operate the generator. This was expensive. Davis notes that the “cost of renting a generator and paying a ‘wireman’ to light up your tree came with a lofty price tag: $300, which is the equivalent of $2000 today. She further adds that “as a result, the electrically lit tree remained a sight see[n] primarily at high society holiday parties.”
It was not until the 1920s that electric Christmas lights became widely available to the general public. By this time, safer Christmas lights were invented by Albert Sadacca who eventually founded NOMA Electric Company (National Outfit Manufacturer’s Association) in 1925. NOMA “became the largest Christmas light manufacturer in the world.” It dominated the Christmas tree light market until the late 1960s when aluminum Christmas trees and rotating color wheels weakened the demand for traditional string lights. NOMA filed for bankruptcy in 1966.
During the 1920s, electric Christmas lights also became more than Christmas tree decorations. People began using them for elaborate outdoor light shows. The first public outdoor electric Christmas light display was Christmas Tree Lane, which was organized by Frederick Nash in Altadena, California. This display has been continuously lit every year except during World War II.
Over the years, additional modifications and enhancements were made to existing Christmas light technology. In the 1970s, smaller minilights were invented. The minibulbs on minilights “offered high-impact, low-cost lighting and used a lower wattage per strand.” By 1995, computer-controlled lighting was also developed for increasingly large and complex light displays. In recent years, energy-efficient LED lights have “made a huge impact” on the holiday lighting we see today.
Interior Árbol de Navidad — 2013 — Puerta del Sol, Madrid, España.jpg
Old opera fountain holiday lights) (11931727025).jpg
Seville city at Christmas night (6570969587).jpg
Deck the Lights! (3135347191).jpg
Festival of Lights, New Plymouth, New Zealand.jpg
Zooming all the Wayyyy! (11251533346).jpg
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 🙂 If you would like to see more holiday lights, you can see my previous “Holiday Light Displays” post from last year.