1. Prior to the 1880s, Christmas trees were lit by candles.
Pretty? Yes. Fire hazard? Absolutely!
2. Thanks to Thomas Edison and his colleague, all that changed.
After Edison patented the light bulb in 1880, Edward Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue bulbs and strung them together around a tree in New York City, and then placed the trunk on a revolving pedestal. Then he called a reporter. A new fashion was born.
3. They were pretty but they weren’t cheap.
A string of 16 vaguely flame-shaped bulbs sitting in brass sockets the size of shot glasses sold for a pricey $12 (about $350 in today’s money) in 1900. But in 1894 President Cleveland put electric lights on the White House tree, and by 1914, a 16-foot string cost just $1.75.
4. Today an estimated 150 million light sets are sold in America each year.
They light 80 million homes and consume 6 percent of the nation’s electrical load each December.
5. And this year Knoxville is doing holiday lights in a big way.
More than a dozen neighborhoods have decorated their homes and yards for the Neighborhood Holiday Trails, a citywide, pandemic-friendly celebration. To view a list of participating neighborhoods, featured streets and links to maps of the trails, visit KnoxvilleTN.gov/Christmas and click Holiday Trails at the top of the page.