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From Candles to Solar Christmas Lights

Updated on October 6, 2009

Christmas Trees of Note

Here is the National Christmas tree. It is decorated entirely in LED Christmas lights.
Here is the National Christmas tree. It is decorated entirely in LED Christmas lights.
Las Vegas goes all out as well.
Las Vegas goes all out as well.
The Rockefeller Center Tree is a New York tradition.
The Rockefeller Center Tree is a New York tradition.

The Beginnings of Chistmas

While it is not the point of this article to cover the origins of Christmas, how solar Christmas lights came about is incomplete without knowing how Christmas lights themselves came about. While Christmas is all about the birth of Christ, the traditions we celebrate, have their origin in ancient pagan rituals.

The history of Christmas dates back over 4000 years with many of our Christmas traditions,like the 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals(parades) with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, the holiday feasts, and the church processions tracing back as early as the Mesopotamians.

No one really knows when Christ was born exactly, and the early Christians preferred a more solemn occasion and rejected many of the pagan traditions that were to become so much a part of the Christmas holiday.

The selection of December 25 comes out of Roman tradition, where Mithras was a divine being borne of a human virgin on December 25th, and by the fourth century the Eastern Orthodox Church had come to accept this as the birth date of Christ.

Now the Scandinavians had started the tradition of bringing evergreen tree branches into their homes over the winter months as a reminder of life. This was all part of the Yuletide festival, which included the burning of the Yule log and much celebration.

The Christmas tree was considered a pagan German tradition until the 1800s when Queen Victoria encouraged her German husband to decorate tree as he had when he was a child. This idea then became fashionable and gradually this concept evolved into what we have today.

And so Our Story Begins

Originally Christmas trees were decorated with fruit such as Apples, which were later replaced by our traditional Christmas Balls. In the 17th century candles started to be used to accentuate the Christmas ornaments. This obviously was quite a fire hazard. In 1882 Edward Johnson, an assistant of Thomas Edison's, came up with the idea of using light bulbs to brighten up the Christmas tree. He strung about 80 light bulbs on a tree in New York City, and so began the history of Christmas lights.

In 1903 General Electric Co. offered a string of Christmas lights which sold for $12(the equivalent of $80 a day) and while they slowly gained popularity, it wasn't until a tragic fire in New York City caused by candles on the Christmas tree, that a man named Albert Sadacca invented safety Christmas light and began what became the largest manufacturer of Christmas lights in the world.

While in the 1895 Pres. Grover Cleveland decorated his Christmas tree with lights, it wasn't until1923 at the national Christmas tree was decorated with 3000 Christmas lights, bringing popularity to the idea, much as Queen Victoria's tree brought popularity to the Christmas tree. In 1933 another famous Christmas tree tradition started in Rockefeller Center and again spectacular lighting made using Christmas tree lights even more popular.

Due to the massive drain on electricity made by these huge light displays, by 2005, LED Christmas lights had replaced the traditional incandescent light bulbs. Now while none of these displays use solar Christmas lights, that might be the next step in the history of Christmas tree lights. Even though LED light bulbs use about 10% of the energy required to light traditional light bulbs, these massive light displays still require quite a bit of power. Therefore there may be a bit of a wait before you see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center decorated with solar Christmas lights. But as the technology advances that would be the next logical step.

A Short Example of LED Christmas Lights in Action

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