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News Story
Updated: 12/19/2013 08:00:00AM

Life in Florida

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Holiday lights add a splash of color to the Christmas season. For many families, nighttime drives to look at lighted displays is an annual tradition.

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This time of year homes and streets are lit with beautifully colored and white lights. At no other time of the year does the wonder of the season shine so bright.

I found several different websites to tell me who invented Christmas lights.

Thomas Edison was the inventor of the practical lightbulb and the very first strand of electric lights. In 1880, the strand was strung around the outside of his Menlo Park laboratory for the railroad passengers to get their first look at the lights. The first known illuminated Christmas tree was created by Edward H. Johnson, the vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, an associate of Thomas Edison. His first illumined tree had 80 red, white, and blue electric incandescent lightbulbs the size of walnuts at his home on Dec. 22, 1882.

President Grover Cleveland sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree at the White House in 1895, featuring multicolored lights. This display was huge with over 100 lights. In the 1900s businesses started stringing Christmas lights in their windows.

President Calvin Coolidge started the lighting of the National Christmas tree on Christmas eve 1923. The tree was located south of the White House with 3,000 lights and offered a spectacular sight no one had ever seen before. But the average person could not afford such a luxury.

Albert Sadacca, a teenager in 1917, suggested to his family they package electric Christmas lights and sell them in the family-owned novelty store. Albert and his brother organized the National Outfit Manufacturers Association and soon became NOMA. They corned the market by 1960 on Christmas lights, making them affordable to the masses. In the 1960s, houses were outlined with colorful lights starting the tradition of tract housing. The custom also was adopted in nonwestern countries like Japan. Many families, like mine, spent many hours driving around the community looking at Christmas lights.

So what did people do before the electric Christmas lights? In the 18th-century in Germany, trees were illuminated with candles. Candles were glued with melted wax or pins to the tree branches. In 1890 the first candleholders were used. Between 1902 and 1914 small lanterns and glass balls were used to hold the candles. As you can imagine the practice of candles on a Christmas tree was dangerous and caused many house fires.

Many of us have fond or not so fond memories of standing in the cold untangling outside lights. My father was always on the ladder nailing or stapling the lights to our house while we waited. This was always an all-day affair. The house was beautiful at the end but the weather was always cold and snowy. Many times we would have to wait until spring to take the lights down because they were frozen to the house or ground.

One of the homes in Lake Placid has been lit since the first of November. Little early? You make the call.

Spend time with the family and drive around the area to enjoy the lights.




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