The Fourth Day of Christmas; lighting up time!


Cartier store decoration, 2009

This post is a brief history of Christmas lights, chronology taken from Christmas: A Very Peculiar History by Fiona MacDonald.  Photos, as always, by me.


Window display at Richard James, Saville Row, London 2008

Macy’s department store in New York, USA, pioneered special Christmas window displays in the 1870s.


Display at Richard James, Saville Row, London, 2008

Edward H. Johnson, of Edison Electric Light Company, USA, was the first to decorate his tree with electric light bulbs, in 1882.


Shopping Arcade, London

In 1904, Christmas lights were first used to decorate outdoor trees, but they were not yet electric.


Claridges hotel, London, Christmas 2009

In 1927, the first organised outdoor Christmas light displays were held in the USA, called ‘Festivals of Lights’.


Christmas floodlighting at RHS Wisley, Surrey

In 1956, electric lights were first used to decorate outdoor Christmas trees.


Millennium glasshouse at Wisley

Despite the relative safety of electric lights over their predecessors, the US Fire Prevention Authority reported that between 2003-7 fire-fighters were called out to around 250 Christmas tree fires every year.


Millennium glasshouse, Christmas 2010

Christmas light displays have become ever more spectacular over the decades but, with concerns about global energy supplies growing, perhaps their days will soon be numbered?


Spooky Christmas lights at Wisley

5 thoughts on “The Fourth Day of Christmas; lighting up time!

  1. I enjoyed reading about the history of lighting displays alongside your photos. We just got back from Christmas in NYC and I found the department store window displays and lights just as magical as they were the last time I was in NYC 40 years ago! ~ Kat

  2. Here it seems that switching to LED lights has decreased the electric requirements, but then it seems the number of lights rise to fill the void. But they are beautiful and cheery at a dreary part of the year.

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