Outdoor Christmas lighting has become a phenomenon within communities. From a humanitarian perspective, holiday lighting inspires emotion and can be infectious – spreading feelings of cheer and hope to everyone who sees them.
To understand how electric Christmas light hanging rose to popularity, we must first trace a bit of the history of the Christmas tree. For it was there that Thomas Edison first advertised his new electric Christmas lights for the masses.
By 1856, candle-adorned Christmas trees were incredibly popular. But there were several issues with candle-adorned Christmas trees, most notably flammability. A safer solution was needed and in 1882 Edison displayed the first electrically-lit Christmas tree in a prominent New York City home.
Despite the popularity, electric Christmas lights remained only for the rich (in 1900, a sixteen-foot strand of lights cost around $12 – about $300 today). But by the 1920’s, due to technological advances and strong business competition, they became attainable to all.
The Christmas tree took on a new meaning during the darkest days of World War II. Millions of people viewed them as symbols of hope and peace for the future. The war forced many people to limit their spending, but the electrically-lit Christmas tree, and what it stood for, never lost popularity.
By the end of World War II, Joseph H. Ward of Noma Electric Company said, “This is the first year since the war that there is enough electrical power and merchandise to really go all out.”
While many community celebrations still focused on electrically-lit trees as their focal point, lights were now strung elsewhere throughout towns, cities and communities across the nation – expanding the feeling of hope and peace originally created by the electrically-lit Christmas tree during the war.
According to Minami International Corporation, a leading supplier of outdoor Christmas lighting, eighty million homes are decorated each year, with more than 150 million light sets sold annually. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.