Traditional or Tacky… Either way we all LOVE Christmas lights

It’s that time of year again… time to string your  illuminated Christmas or Holiday display and play “who has the better house” with your neighbours. Every year about this time we put up lighting on the inside and outside of our homes to celebrate whatever it is that we celebrate.

This upcoming weekend seems to be the most popular time of the year to haul out and reinstall your christmas lights display. However, those of us that were thinking ahead took advantage of the warmer weather we had the past couple of weekends and are now ready to just flip the switch.

Though the tradition of using small candles to light up the Christmas tree dates back to at least the middle of the 17th century. However, it took more than two centuries for the tradition to become widely established first in Germany and soon spreading to Eastern Europe.

Candles for the tree were glued with melted wax to a tree branch or attached by pins. Around 1890, candleholders were first used for Christmas candles. Between 1902 and 1914, small lanterns and glass balls to hold the candles started to be used.

In 1900, eight years after General Electric purchased the patent rights to Edison’s bulbs, the first known advertisement for Christmas tree lights appeared in Scientific American Magazine.  They were so expensive that the ad suggests renting lights for a holiday display as an alternative.

Twenty-five years later, demand was up. There were 15 companies in the business of selling Christmas lights, and in 1925 they formed a consortium called the NOMA Electric Corporation, the largest Christmas light manufacturer in the world.

Even though NOMA was formed three years prior to the Great Depression, their appeal was great enough to pull through, becoming a juggernaut that was synonymous with Christmas lights from the Depression clear through to the Civil Rights Movement. NOMA didn’t just further Edison’s vision, though. They worked hard to bedazzle, becoming the world’s biggest manufacturer of the bubble light—arguably the first great mass-produced tacky Christmas decoration.  Though NOMA is no more, these psychedelic bubble lights are thankfully still in existence.

So, when you go to buy your Christmas lights and all that’s needed for your display (extension cables, cube taps and power strips, etc), know that you’re going to be inundated with sizes, shapes & colours (of both lamps and wire). However I think we’ve all learned that back up bulbs and strands are always helpful. It definitely is a production, but one that most often turns into something beautiful (perhaps occasionally tacky).

Good luck, have fun and don’t forget to be safe when you’re climbing that ladder.

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