Xmas Lights

Queensferry Crossing with tartan piers

Christmas Lights Night

Dec 11

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“Fairy Lights on Winter Nights!”

One of the magical mysteries of Christmas is ... if Christmas lights spend all year in a stationary box, how do they manage to arrange themselves into such spectacular tangles and snarls?! Physicists have studied this Yuletide variant of knot theory by placing strings of various lengths and stiffness in a box, shaking it around, and studying the number of knots that form. Apparently, and we know this intuitively, it takes “surprisingly little motion” for knots to form, and it’s much easier to accidentally form a knot than undo one, allowing knots to accumulate! "Entanglements" of this sort started in 1882 when Edward Johnson, an inventor in Thomas Edison's lab, came up with the electrifying idea of an alternative to the traditional candles on a tree, which were lovely, but a fire hazard. Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and strung them together around a cut tree, placed the trunk on a revolving pedestal, and powered it all by a generator. It was an instant sensation! In 1894 President Cleveland put electric lights on the White House tree, and by the 1930s, colored bulbs and cones were everywhere during Christmas season and most likely tangling themselves during the rest of the year. Today, light displays are synchronized to music, projected onto buildings, limited only by one's imagination, energy bills, and your neighbor's tolerance. 🌟 🎄 🌟

Xmas Lights

Many look forward to the seasonal decoration of Christmas lights, whether inside the home on the Christmas tree or outside on the eaves of houses.

The tradition of lighting the tree with small candles dates back to the 17th century and originated in Germany before spreading to Eastern Europe. The small candles were attached to the tree branches with pins or melted wax. In addition, European Christians used to display a burning candle in the windows of their house that was visible from the outside. The candles in the window indicated to other Christians that the house was a Christian house and that other Christians were welcome to come worship with the residents.

During the 1880 Christmas season, Thomas Edison introduced the first outdoor electric Christmas light display to the world. He displayed the lights outside of his laboratory compound, which sat near a railway where many people could see it each night. This was the first official outdoor Christmas display that was separate from decorating just the Christmas tree.

Edward Johnson, who was an inventor under the supervision of Thomas Edison, created the first string of Christmas lights a couple of years later. The string of lights was made out of 80 small electric light bulbs. In 1890, the strings of lights were mass-produced and department stores began displaying them in Christmas displays in their stores. Public displays of Christmas lights in retail stores and government buildings became more popular in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century and gave way to outdoor displays on homes a few decades later when the electric lights became more affordable.

In 1895, the first White House electrically lit Christmas tree was sponsored by President Grover Cleveland, which brought national attention to the trend. 

Today some enterprising people synchronize major light displays to music, either automatically or digital piano played live.

And some people have projected tartan displays on larger structures for all to enjoy.

To hear and see a lovely 500,500 light acoustic version of the carol "I Saw Three Ships" set to lights by the Piano Guys, click the tartan farm created in 2014 by Created by street artists TrenchOne, Elph and Purshonem, using a giant projection on a group of buildings near Edinburgh.

Xmas Lights
Xmas Lights

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