A history on Christmas lights
Electric Christmas lights have a long history,
which really amplified during the 1940’s when the use of electricity was
growing throughout the United States.
In earlier days, Germany in the 16th
century is credited for decorating their Christmas trees with lit candles. Candles
were extremely hard to adhere to the tree until 1878 when Frederick Artz
invented the first clip-on candleholder. Yet still, fire on a flammable tree
was a fairly dangerous endeavor.
Figure 1 Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
The first use of electric Christmas lights,
however, occurred much earlier in 1882 when a friend and business partner of
Thomas Edison, Mr. Edward Johnson, hand-wired eighty American themed red, white
and blue bulbs and hung them on a rotating pine tree in his home. A Detroit
Press and Tribune reporter wrote on the exhibit.
In 1895, President Cleveland commissioned a tree
lighting at the White House which included hundreds of multicolored lights. A
stir was created amongst the public and Christmas tree lighting popularized
Figure 2 President Coolidge at the lighting of the first
National Christmas Tree on December 24th, 1923. Photo courtesy of Prints &
Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Still, for quite some time Christmas lights were
too expensive for the general public to afford until General Electric Co. in
1903 created a pre-assembled Christmas lighting system.
Christmas tree lights popularized even more when
a fire broke out in 1917, New York City, due to lighting candles on a tree. A
young 15 year-old Albert Sadacca suggested to his parents to begin a Christmas
light business with the lights they had left over from a previously owned
company. They then began painting the bulbs Christmas colors and their business
expanded quickly. NOMA Electric became a multi-million dollar company.
Developments had not been made on electrical
power supply, especially outside of major cities and electric sockets had not
been invented yet, so lighting a Christmas tree was quite the task for some
time. Many had to hire professional wireman, who used a screw-in current tap to
have the tree lit.
What makes Christmas lights
Blinking lights actually rely on over heating (so
to speak). They have a single thermostat
and when the electricity heats a metal strip inside the bulb, it breaks and
bends the circuit. The metal cools and it bends backward and reconnects the
circuit to create the flashing effect. More modern lights, however, use an
Costs associated with Christmas light displays
Although costs have drastically decreased for the
regular and widespread use of Christmas lighting and décor, it can still be
very costly. In 2013, the United States spent around $6 billion on Christmas
decorations. The average electric cost to plug in 10 strands of incandescent
Christmas lights for a two-month period is $69.00, while the same for LED
Christmas lights is $20.70. Incandescent wattage is 80-90% more than LED
wattage, so the cost can be up to 90 times greater than powering and LED. LED’s
may also last 66 times longer than incandescent mini lights.