Christmas Lights

March 31, 2021
Christmas Lights

Let There Be (Christmas) Lights!

Thomas Edison perfected the incandescent light bulb, and his innovation lit the way for his business partner’s more colorful creation:
Christmas tree lights.

‘Tis The Season For Lights

Shortly after presenting his electric incandescent bulbs, Thomas Edison adorned his lab with a strands of lights during the Christmas season.

In 1882, his partner, looking for a safer alternative to the open flames of lit candles, built his own set of electric lights for his Christmas tree – but due to concerns about cost & safety, it took years for the trend to spread.

Lighting The Way Forward

  • 1882: Edward Johnson, Edison’s partner, decorated his Christmas tree with a strand of 80 red, white and blue electric lights.
  • 1895: The White House tree used electric lights for the first time.
  • 1903: Ready-to-use Christmas light sets first went on sale (est. cost $350 in today’s dollars).
  • 1930s: X-mas light sets became widely available.

Today, it's estimated that over 150 million sets of lights are sold each year as part of the $230+ average spent by each American on decorations and other non-gift holiday items. Take a peek at *what many believe* is the first photo of a White House Christmas tree with lights on our source page.

White House Christmas Traditions (including a photo of the first Christmas tree with lights)

by Jenna Lee,