The tradition of using lights during the Christmas season has its roots in various historical and cultural practices.
Candles: The use of lights during winter festivals predates Christmas. Ancient pagans used candles and fires during the winter solstice to symbolize light and hope during the darkest days of the year. It was believed to encourage the return of the sun and longer days.
Martin Luther: The story goes that Martin Luther, a German Protestant reformer in the 16th century, was inspired by the beauty of stars shining through the trees on a winter's night. He reportedly wanted to recreate the scene for his family, so he brought a small tree into his home and decorated it with candles attached to the branches to mimic the stars he saw.
Electric Lights: The tradition of using electric lights for Christmas trees is attributed to the late 19th century. Edward H. Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, is often credited with the first electric Christmas lights display in 1882. He hand-wired 80 red, white, and blue light bulbs and wrapped them around his Christmas tree, creating a sensation.
However, it wasn't until the early 20th century that electric Christmas lights gained popularity. Initially, they were quite expensive and mostly affordable only for the wealthy. General Electric (GE) started mass-producing pre-assembled Christmas lights around 1903, making them more accessible to the public.
Over time, these lights became safer, more affordable, and more varied in color and design. By the mid-20th century, they were widely used not only on Christmas trees but also to decorate homes, buildings, and streets during the holiday season.
Today, LED lights dominate the market due to their energy efficiency and durability, offering a wide array of colors and effects, carrying on the tradition of illuminating the holiday season in a festive and bright manner.