Electric Lights for Trees?

The history of Christmas lights is a rather interesting one. This year, before you begin the battle to untangle your Christmas lights, take a moment to appreciate where this tradition started and how far we have come since then. It may change your attitude about this holiday hassle.

The Illuminating History of Christmas Lights

Before we had light-emitting diode (LED) Christmas lights, there were incandescent lights. Before electric stringed lights, our dedicated predecessors used wax candles to light their indoor Christmas trees. As you can imagine, a bunch of lit candle on a dead pine tree was a super dangerous practice. Thank goodness for the invention of electricity and the first string of mini lights.

Such an invention has helped to prevent many a Christmas tree from catching fire. In fact, that was such a real danger that insurance companies back then, refused to cover house fires caused by Christmas trees. The tradition of lighting the tree back around the turn of the century meant that someone had to stand nearby with buckets of water and sand, ready to dowse the tree at any moment. Because of this fire hazard, the tree would only be up for a couple of days before Christmas. Seems like a lot of trouble and risk to go through for a Christmas tradition that you can only enjoy for a few days.

The History Channel as a great video briefly explaining the history of Christmas lights. Take a look.


The first string of incandescent lights made available to the public were so expensive that people would rent out the lights rather than buy them. If one light went out on these short light strands, they all did. Fortunately, the strands were pretty short, so narrowing down the problem, I imagine, would have been faster.

Take a look at what 100-year-old Christmas lights looked like back-in-the-day.


The Very American History of Christmas Lights” is an interesting take on the tradition of Christmas tree lighting.

LED Christmas lights are brighter and more energy efficient, using one-tenth the energy required by incandescent bulbs, and last much longer than their incandescent predecessor. Although they are more expensive than incandescent lights, they will save you money and time in the long run.

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The years 1441, 1442 and 1514 marked the first documentation of smartening up Christmas trees. It appears to not have caught on as an established tradition until 1584, when Balthasar Russow, a pastor and historian, chronicled a village celebration that centered on the decorating of a spruce. The youth of the village would frolic, dance and sing around it until they lit it on fire. In this time period, it was recorded that a tree would be assembled by the front of the guildhalls and subsequently adorned with nuts, apples, and paper flowers.

Adding candles to the list of expected Christmas tree decorations did not occur until around 1781, when Brunswick soldiers decorated a tree with flickering candle lights during a Christmas celebration. One hundred years later an acquaintance of Thomas Edison first replaced traditional candles with electric lights, and there the tradition of decoration evolved to what we know today. Add the happy colors and cheery blinking patterns that we’ve become accustomed to today, and you’ve got yourself a modern-day Christmas tree.

Originally, white was the only color to ornament the naturally beautiful trees. Once green and red became the colors associated with the common winter holiday, the little globes of light were tinted those respective colors. As individuals expanded to desiring more brilliant rainbow lights garnishing their trees, a vast array of color strings soon became available. Creative minds have since gone wacky with all of the potential decorating concepts that can be fashioned out of the full palette of colors and decorations that are typically used in modern décor.