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A brief history of Christmas lights

Christmas lights are a regular feature among Christmas decorations across the world. However, long before electrical lights, people would light up their homes to brighten the dark winter months and mark the Christmas season. As with many of the festive customs in the UK, many of the more traditional Christmas ideas originate from Germany. Here’s a brief history of Christmas lights:


In the 17th century, Germans would light up their homes and trees with candles attached to branches with pins or melted wax. The custom gradually spread to the rest of Europe. However, were not the safest and could only be lit for a few minutes each day, with plenty of water and sandbags nearby for any mishaps.

Electric lights

1880 saw the dawn of electrical Christmas lights thanks to Thomas Edison, who created an outdoor Christmas display beside his laboratory. A couple of years later, an inventor under his supervision, by the name of Edward Johnson, made the first set of string lights.

A decade on from that first outdoor Christmas display, Edison had honed his designs and marketed electrical Christmas lights to the public. As with most new inventions, they were rather expensive and out of reach for many people. They were also still quite hit and miss safety-wise. A devastating fire in New York City due to lights on a Christmas tree inspired companies to collectively make Christmas lights safe from 1925 onwards.

Over the years that have followed, Christmas lights have become the safe and affordable Christmas decoration we know today.

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