Decorating with lights has been in vogue from the beginning of the light bulb. Even Thomas Edison decorated his lab with a strand of bulbs in 1880. The first Christmas lights were fashioned by Edison’s business partner, Edward H. Johnson, when he took a strand of red, white and blue lights and dangled them around his Christmas tree.
The first breakthrough in popular holiday lighting was in 1903 when GE made Christmas lighting kits affordable. Until that time, lighting a Christmas tree with lights required a bit of electrical savvy and a budget that would equal $2,000 US in today’s money. Albert Sadacca further popularized Christmas lighting with his company NOMA Electric Company in 1925. NOMA licensed its name to 15 smaller firms to sell their lights. NOMA was responsible for innovations like fused safety plugs (1951), all-rubber cords (1940), and Bubble Lites (1946).
While Noma went bankrupt in 1965, Christmas light technology remained relatively static until just recently with the introduction of LEDs. New LED strings use 80% less electricity while burning much cooler. LEDs also offer programmability and virtually unlimited color and design capabilities. Just think what the Griswolds from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation could do with LEDs!
Here’s a look at some of the more colorful and innovative holiday displays around the world in 2012.
Rockefeller Center, New York, NY — The 80 foot tall Christmas tree features 45,000 LEDs
Niagara Falls, NY & Canada– The three waterfalls (Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls) as well as 120 additional displays are lit up with more than 3 million lights for the holidays.
Champs-Élysées, Paris – One of Paris’ most famous thoroughfares is lit up with LEDs along 2 kilometers.
Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo – ZooLights, the zoo’s18th annual winter festival, features two million LED lights.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights– While the family Christmas light display started at a modest 1000 lights, the Osborne’s home display in Arkansas grew so large that the family shares their magic with Disney every year. Their display moved to Disney World in 1995 residing on the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park and now features more than 5 million LED lights set to music.
In 2011, the National Retail Federation and BIG Research expected Americans to spend more than $6 billion on Christmas decorations, up more than 8% from last year and the most spent over the seven years the group began tracking this type of spending.
AP, HOLIDAY EVENTS: TREES, LIGHTING DISPLAYS AND MORE, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/holiday-events-trees-lighting-displays-and-more
The Telegraph, Champs Elysees lights up with Christmas sparkle, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8911607/Champs-Elysees-lights-up-with-Christmas-sparkle.html
Huffington Post, Holiday Displays Around The World Light Up Global Landmarks, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/28/holiday-displays-around-the-world_n_2200170.html
Solid State Technology, (US) National Christmas Tree, tested by storm, awaits lighting, http://www.electroiq.com/leds/2012/12/05/national-christmas-tree-tested-by-storm-awaits-lighting.html?cmpid=EnlLedDecember122012