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A Christmas (Lights) Story

What do candles, Thomas Edison, and evergreen trees have to do with your Ottawa Christmas lighting design? They all play an integral role in the introduction of holiday lights, that’s what! Today we practically take Ottawa Christmas light designs and displays for granted – these luminous arrangements are to be expected. But that wasn’t always the case, of course. The tradition of stringing electric lights along gutters and around trees is actually a relatively modern phenomenon. In fact, prior to 1880 most families lit their holiday trees with candles, a bad idea for obvious reasons. And then Edison showed up…

Introducing the World to Christmas Lights
Before we can tell the story of Thomas Edison and his impact on Ottawa Christmas lighting designs, we need to first understand the situation surrounding holiday décor back in the 1800s. During the 17th century, holiday trees were only erected a few days before Christmas and then promptly removed. Tree décor was simple, but deadly – wax candles that were loosely secured to the branches of dried-out trees. These candles were only lit for a few minutes each night, and even then families would stand guard with buckets of water and sand at hand just in case things got heated.

By the time 1880 rolled around, Thomas Edison was already well known for his electrifying ideas. In fact, but this time the inventor had pretty much perfected the incandescent light bulb (aside from a few lingering heat issues). That being said, he was still struggling to get people to buy into this new concept of electricity. Which is why, in 1880, Edison decided to pull the ultimately holiday marketing gimmick: display his invention as part of a Christmas display. So, one winter’s eve, Edison strung up incandescent bulbs all around his Menlo Park laboratory. Railway commuters could then revel in the glow of his decorations when they passed by just a short ways away.

Edison’s contemporary, Edward Johnson would later display the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree inside his home in Manhattan two years later. A dismal display compared to modern installations (Johnson’s tree featured 80 lights), this simple holiday tree literally changed the way we celebrate the holiday, cementing Christmas lights as a standard element of Yuletide cheer.

Lighting Up the Christmas Spirit
People were pandering for holiday lights by the time the new century rolled around. That being said, it wasn’t easy (or cheap!) to create a holiday lighting display back in the 1900s. In fact, a single string of Christmas lights would cost you $12 – that’s close to $300 in today’s money. Even so, that didn’t stop General Electric from advertising this new and novel holiday decorating idea. Eight years after purchasing the patent rights to Edison’s electric light bulbs, the manufacturing giant published the first known advertisement for Christmas lights in Scientific American Magazine. By 1925 demand for lights was through the roof. More than 15 companies were in manufacturing holiday lights; together they formed a consortium known as the NOMA Electric Corporation.

The age of holiday illumination was upon us… and what a bright one it would become!

Light up the night with your very on Ottawa Christmas lighting design – all you have to do is call our office and book your lighting consultation. What better way to pay homage to Edison and Johnson? Call 613-317-2340 to schedule your consultation and deck your home with a dazzling Ottawa Christmas lighting display.

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