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The Origins of the Holiday Decorating Industry

Thomas Edison's Business Partner Gets Some Credit


Christmas lighting has come a long way since its early open-flame-candle beginnings. While some landscape lighting professionals offer holiday lighting as a service, this Southern California couple chose to do all of the work themselves, taking home their neighborhood holiday lighting competition's top prize.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Miller.

Reported to be around a $1 billion business, the holiday lighting industry has many landscape professionals in its ranks according to Sival Inc., a wholesale distributor of commercial grade holiday lights. The industry in the U.S. can trace its roots back to 1903 when General Electric first marketed holiday themed lights to the public as preassembled kits.

Prior to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, Christmas lighting depended on open flame candles as a light source. Draping a tree inside of a structure with open flame candles or affixing them to the exterior landscaping of a structure is dangerous and led to fires.

Although Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of the incandescent light bulb, it was his partner Edward Johnson who had the bright idea of stringing together multicolored lights, wrapping them around a tree.

"Edward H. Johnson put the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson, Edison's friend and partner in the Edison's Illumination Company, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree," according to an article from the Library of Congress.

Needless to say, Christmas lighting has made giant strides away from the use of open flame candles. It has benefited from and begun to incorporate technological advancements tried and tested in other areas of landscape lighting, such as the use of light emitting diodes (LEDs).

LEDs are more efficient and operate at cooler temperatures than traditional incandescent lights. This decreases the risk of fire and saves the end user money on their electric bill.

"LED holiday lights have an estimated lifespan of 40 holiday seasons and are more resistant to breakage--thanks to epoxy lenses--than incandescent versions. But the real impact comes from the cost of electricity," according to an article by the American Lighting Association.

This Christmas, sit back and enjoy the decades of hard work that have gone into making this time of year safer and brighter. For more information and tips on holiday lighting visit http

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September 16, 2019, 4:27 pm PDT

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