Night Lights

I come from a tiny family with precious few holiday traditions, so I am elated to have had the good fortune to marry into a huge Catholic family that has a ritual for just about everything. The Easter egg hunts and Fourth of July barbecues are wonderful, of course, but my favorite tradition by far is the annual post-Thanksgiving-dinner drive to look at Christmas lights. Full of turkey and pie, we caravan through the chilly November darkness, exclaiming over everything from tasteful displays of flickering white lights to completely over-the-top extravaganzas of moving Santa Clauses and mangers that look like they belong in Las Vegas.

Even before electricity, the winter holidays were all associated with displays of light. The electric lights we now associate with the holiday season can be traced back to Edward Johnson in 1882. An associate of Thomas Edison, Johnson wanted to light his tree with this new invention, so he hand-wired red, white and blue hand-blown bulbs and strung them up on his revolving Christmas tree. The new bulbs were too expensive to be practical for normal households, which is hard to imagine today, when we can buy hundreds of lights for about $5.

Times change, obviously, and even things as simple as Christmas lights are being constantly refined –– this year LED lights are catching on because they use 80 percent less energy than traditional Christmas lights and are much safer. But as things change around you, you should cling even tighter to your holiday traditions. Not everything needs improvement. Some things are perfect just the way they are. 

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