It’s that time of the year. Calls are beginning to come in from customers scheduling our Christmas light installation service. For all but the occasional Christmas Grinch, the holiday season is a wonderful time of year.
And I really enjoy offering our customers the service of installing their Christmas lights. They get the joy and beauty of a great light display without the risk and headaches of the installation. (Leave the ladder-climbing and roof-hopping to us. We’re professionals; we can do it safely!)
But as much as we all enjoy the inspiring spectacle of all the wonderful Christmas light displays each season, I think that we sometimes take them a bit for granted. After all, we’ve become accustomed to viewing these grand light displays every year for all our lives
But it wasn’t always so…
Did it Come Upon a Midnight Clear?
It happened one night in 1880. A train full of weary commuters was rolling through rural New Jersey. It was Christmastime. Huddling against the cold and fighting boredom, there was little conversation. Some of the passengers were sleeping; others were immersed in their own thoughts and worries of the day.
But a sudden commotion awoke even the heaviest of sleepers. Light as bright as day suddenly poured through the windows, eliciting exclamations of awe and delight. Fingers pointed and noses pressed against icy windowpanes.
The source of the excitement? The train was rolling past Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, where Edison had set the night aglow with history’s first display of electric Christmas lights.
From Logs to LEDs
Using light to celebrate the hope and joy of Christmas is a long-standing tradition.
Hundreds of years ago, during the Dark Ages, Yule Logs were burned during the shortest, darkest days of winter. The Yule Logs were thought to help repel the evil spirits that were believed to haunt the dreary days of winter.
The burning of Yule Logs was a pagan ritual, having nothing to do with Christmas. But because the Yuletide tradition annually occurred during the time of Christmas, the pagan custom gradually morphed into the Christian tradition of celebrating Christ’s birth with light displays.
For many years, of course, fire was the only form of artificial lighting available. And for most households celebrating Christmas, that meant candles – lots of them.
The tradition of lighting a Christmas tree originated with loading up a tree with lots of candles. Unfortunately, it was a hazardous tradition. A tinder-dry Christmas tree festooned with lots of sputtering candles is a tragedy waiting to happen. And indeed, Christmastime tragedies happened with great frequency, with many a home reduced to a pile of smoking cinders because of a Christmas tree fire.
But Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb ushered in a new age of Christmas lighting. And in the years since, the LED bulb has offered dramatic improvements over incandescents.
Let’s Enjoy the Season…
As the holiday lights begin to go up in your neighborhood this season, give a bit of thought to how it used to be.
Think of our ancestors huddled around a Yuletide log, clinging to its circle of light while cringing in fear at the ghosts and spirits that hovered ever-present in the dreary winter darkness. Think of a long-ago family nervously enjoying a candlelit Christmas tree, buckets of water and sand at the ready.
And then think about how lucky we are to be living in our modern time. Though our age offers plenty of trials and travails, we really do have it pretty good. And the beautiful Christmas lights we enjoy each holiday season are but one of the fringe benefits of modern life.