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Front Page » December 2, 2008 » Carbon County News » Tracing history of holiday lights tradition
Published 2,151 days ago

Tracing history of holiday lights tradition


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By C.J. MCMANUS
Sun Advocate community editor

Americans have been decorating homes with Christmas lights since the 17th century and possibly before.

While there was no electricity at that, time ornate collections of candles could be found within the homes of America's more wealthy residents.

Then in 1882, electric Christmas lights were introduced and holiday festivities would never be the same.

According to Wikipedia, the first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree was the creation of Edward H. Johnson, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison. While he was vice president of an electric company he had Christmas tree bulbs made especially for him. He proudly displayed his illuminated tree, which was hand wired with 80 red, white and blue incandescent light bulbs the size of walnuts on Dec. 22 1882 at his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

"Local newspapers ignored the story, seeing it as a publicity stunt. However, it was published by a Detroit newspaper reporter and Johnson has since become widely regarded as the Father of electric Christmas tree lights," states Wikipedia. "In 1895 U.S. President Grover Cleveland proudly sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House. It was a huge specimen, featuring more than a hundred multicolored lights."

The first commercially produced lights were manufactured in strings with multiples of eight sockets by General Electric. From these humble beginnings, Americans would take lighting to a whole other level.

"It seems to be human nature that once we get a good thing, we can't get enough of it," states the online site www.christmaslore.com. "People were so pleased with electric Christmas lights that they began looking for more ways to use them. Hence, the evolution of the Christmas lights from tree only decorations to house wide candelabras."

The site explains that in the beginning lights started plain and were over time colored and made into every thinkable shape and size.

"There are icicle lights for your gutters and net lights for your bushes," quipped the site.

Individuals can even find prefabricated wire molds that hold colored lights in position creating fake trees, mangers, sheep, camels, wise men, bunnies, even Santa Claus and his reindeer.

The fact is that most anything a person can image is most likely being fashioned into a wire light set as this article is written.

The U.S. is not the only country with a long standing tradition of Christmas light display, it has been adopted by many other cultures most notably Japan, according to wikipedia.com.

The technology used in light displays has continued to grow displaying a highly diverse cornucopia of choice from simple light strands to full-blown animated puppets which uses complex illuminated animatronics and statues.

Christmas lights, also called twinkle lights, holidays lights and mini lights in the U.S. and fairy lights in the U.K.

Wikipedia goes on to explain that displays of Christmas lights in public venues and on public buildings are a popular part of the annual celebrations nearly everywhere the holiday is observed.

The holiday light displays have even become synonymous with certain neighborhoods around the world.

Annual displays on Oxford St. in London have been adored by the business community and public alike.

The Holiday Trail of Light, a joint effort between towns in Louisiana and Texas, started in 1927 which makes it one of the oldest light celebrations in the United States.

And then there's the Tacky Xmas Decoration Contest and Grand Highly Illuminated House Tour, which has become a widely popular Christmas decoration competition.

Not to be outdone, Price city has a light contest all their own. Not to mention the festivities that are carried on in Helper all season long.

Residents and businesses within the Price city limits will be eligible to participate in the Sixth Annual Griswold Holiday lighting contest.

The event will be judged by the Price City Community Progress Committee.

Areas of Price will be split into four quadroons for judging.

The homes will be judged on the following criteria:

•Uniform theme.

•Originality.

•Festivity.

•Most effective use of lights.

Judging will take place between Dec. 8 and 12 and the winners will be announced on Dec. 16.

Yards that won last year will not be eligible for the 2008 contest.

In addition, the Helper Light Parade will be conducted at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.

Sunnyside celebrated the city's festivities by turning on the park's light at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 1.

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