The year was 1880, electrical plants had been built and electricity was being used in public buildings, hotels and homes of the wealthy. Mr. Edison had invented his light bulb and was looking for a way to advertise it. What he came up with was strings of incandescent light bulbs hung inside his laboratory during Christmas in a fashion that all passersby could see the lights. This became the first electric light display. Two short years later a man named Edward Johnson, an acquaintance of Thomas Edison, set up the first ever Christmas Tree with strings of Edison lights.
For the first 50 or so years, the “tree lights” were popular, but not affordable to anyone beyond the extremely wealthy. According to The Brief and Strangely Interesting History of Christmas Lights (gizmodo.com), one string of lights in 1890 had a cost of $12 which converts to $300 in today’s dollars. Due to the overwhelming price of the lights, they were offered by some companies for rent. As demand grew and manufacturing processes streamlined, the string of Christmas lights became more and more affordable for the average family.
Fast forward to today and not much has changed with the basic string of lights with two notable exceptions. They are still made predominately of incandescent lights wired together on an electrical cord. However, over the last few years LED lights have taken a much bigger share of the Christmas light sector. In addition, many lights have now been wired such that if one light goes out, the entire string remains lit. This save a lot of work and hassle of finding and replacing burnt out or broken bulbs.
While the technology itself has remained the same, light bulbs have varied wildly. Christmas lights range in size from tiny twinkle lights to large outdoor lights. From coloured bubble lights to imitation candles, critters and animation to every other shape and size imaginable. I have seen moose and deer, angels, and Santa; even a fully green crawling alligator! Whether you decorate your home with simple lights or layers of lights and displays the options are endless.
Even though it appears that Christmas Tree lights were made in order to sell more of Mr. Edison’s invention, we can use the lights to remind us of the light that was given so very long ago. The variety of bulbs available, past and present, can remind us of our uniqueness and that we are lights that can illuminate the world around us if we choose to shine.
A great light has shone on those in darkness.
Walk with me and walk in light.
You are the Light in the World.
Is 9.2; John 8.12; Matt 5.14
May your Christmas be Bright!