It's only fitting, perhaps, that along with gifts giving by the Santa Claus at Christmas, holiday and Christmas lights also came about through the work of a wizard - the Wizard of Menlo Park in New Jersey - as Thomas Edison was called. It was Edison who first developed and demonstrated an incandescent electric light bulb in 1879 that had commercial potential, an event that led the way for the mass use of electricity and lights on Christmas tree as used today.
Before the discovery and use of electricity, candles were used to light Christmas trees. That practice evolved into having glass covers with candles inside them or metal lanterns that had small wicks. These were hung like ornaments on Christmas trees. But even after Edison invented the incandescent electric light bulb, it took many years before the large-scale manufacture of Christmas tree lights were available commercially.
It is said that the idea of Christmas lights came from one of Edison's assistants, Edward Johnson. In 1882, Johnson had Christmas tree bulbs made specially for him. He displayed these electric bulbs on his Christmas tree at his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City and it drew widespread attention.
But Christmas tree lights underwent many changes and improvement before General Electric Co. introduced Christmas lights on a commercial scale. As an example, among the earlier lights used on Christmas trees were night-lights that were strung together to make light strings. After the commercial introduction of Christmas lights, sales and wide-scale use of them soared.
Decorative mini-lights to be used for Christmas tree lighting were introduced in the 1970s. Since then, they have continued to be popular and are the dominant types of Christmas tree lights in the marketplace. Before that, icicle lights were introduced as decoration for roof-lines. Those decorative lights are the most popular ones used for outdoor landscape lighting during the holidays.
Outdoor decorative lighting has evolved from Christmas tree lighting to also become a popular way to use colorful lighting during the holidays to create spectacular scenes.
Another development in decorative lighting at Christmas time is the use of candles. Real candles can be used, but electric candles became more popular and safer because they present less threat of a fire hazard. Today that threat has also decreased with the development of flame-less battery candles. The battery operation also makes their use more flexible because they can be placed in areas where there aren't electrical outlets. Candles are usually displayed at several windows of a house during the holidays. They produce an appealing look especially if there are at least two sets of three windows each other where they can be placed.
Battery-operated candles can also be used during Christmas and the holidays for other activities such as caroling, church services, school activities and for other holiday arrangements around the home.
As Christmas lights have become a mandatory feature of the holidays, they are continually being used in new ways that differ considerably from their early beginnings. Outdoor lighting is now just as common as indoor lighting and that is an area in which a change in the use of holiday lighting can be seen. Along with icicle lights that illuminate roof-lines and frames of houses, there are also lights that are placed in shrubs. Holiday lighting also comes in the shape of trees and other ornaments that can be placed on lawn to enhance the visual appeal during the holidays.
Many lawns are landscaped by lighting during Christmas and the holiday season with lighted figurines and various other items associated with the season. In some communities, entire blocks of streets will have such elaborate holiday lawn lighting that they attract passersby and even tourists - residents from elsewhere - who are captivated by the spectacular visual displays of the landscaped holiday lighting.