Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Brightening The Holidays

It seems that Christmas lights on the outside of the house have become just as much a tradition as the tree itself or the presents or Santa Claus. That's one of the things I look forward to each holiday season is looking at the lights and seeing who's house looks cool & classy and who looks Griswalded out! When Derek & I were little, we would play a game in the car: who had the most lighted houses and/or yards on their side of the car.

I was wondering the other day how this became such a tradition and, almost by holiday magic, The Gazette's Mini Page* answered my question!! It seems that lights on the actual Christmas tree was started in the 1500's by Reverend Martin Luther, who wanted to replicate the stars in the sky on his tree so he placed candles on the branches. Of course, you can immediately see the problem; it also became tradition to keep a bucket of water next to the tree, just in case.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, is also responsible for the first public display of lighting on New Year's Eve in 1879 at Menlo Park, NJ. The first electric Christmas tree lights were invented three years later by Edward H. Johnson, vice president of the Edison General Electric Company. His designed srting of red, white & blue lights numbered 80 bulbs and were each hand-blown, hand-wired & hand-painted. The Edison General Electric Company started selling strings of lights to the public in 1890 but it cost hundreds of dollars to light a tree so it was only for the well-to-do. It wasn't until the 1920's that most American homes were wired for electricity and could afford to light up their holidays.

So there you go, in case you were wondering like me.

*The Mini Page is a kids section in the Gazette newspaper that picks one subject every Monday and enlightens children on this subject. They also have (or did, they didn't this week unless someone stole it) a coloring contest on the back page that could win you money. At least it did when I was in school. I won first place once for a Halloween picture of pumpkins; I made them into Jack-O-Lanterns which was creative enough for the 1st prize of $5! I also won honorable mention of $1 two or three times, I think. I had a Christmas coloring contest that I knew would win - it was a candle surrounded by ivy and I cut it out and pasted it to red & green construction paper. When the results were listed the next week, I didn't even get honorable mention! I was crushed! Then at the end of the school year, my 6th grade teacher comes up to me and says, "Look what I found in the bottom of my desk! I must have forgotten to send it in." Pbbt! That was $5 right there! I should have made her pay me! Ha!

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