In New York City in 1917, a fifteen year old boy named Albert Sadacca got the idea to make Christmas tree lights, inspired by a tragic fire resulting from the use of Christmas candles. His family, who had emigrated from Spain, had a novelty business, selling among other things, wicker cages with imitation birds in them that lit up. Albert adapted some of those products into safe electric lights for Christmas trees. They had many bulbs on hand, making the venture not too risky financially. The first year only one hundred strings of white lights were sold, but then a light bulb (a brightly colored one this time) went off in Alberts enterprising head. He began to use multi-colored bulbs and the business became multi as well (millions, that is). The company started by Albert Sadacca and his two brothers, Henri and Leon was NOMA Electric Company, and it was the largest of its kind anywhere in the world for all of its years of operation prior to 1965.
It wasnt until after World War II that the populace of Great Britain generally converted to electrically lit trees. The 1940s produced some of the most beautiful lights ever made. Those made in the late 1930s and 40s by the General Electric Company were licensed from Disney, and depicted Snow White, Cinderella and later, others. There were also Bubble Lights, which were little colored glass tubes with an oil inside, which began to bubble as the light heated up. They are hard to find, as they only sold for about ten years, but recently an American company has begun to market bubble lights again.
The mid 1960s brought other changes. Some American modernist who drank came up with the idea of the silver aluminum trees. They took off and became very popular in Britain as well. The "Silver Pine Tree," patented in the 1950s, was designed to have a revolving light source under it, with colored gelatine windows, which allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree. No decorations were needed for this tree as it already had too many colors for the eye to focus on. America made a return to Victorian nostalgia in the 1970s and later Britain followed the fashion. Even though real Christmas trees were popular, the convenience of having a 14-foot Spruce in the living room without so much as a single dropped pine needle was too much for many a practical housewife to resist. Pine scented sprays fostered the illusion, and if you didnt look too closely, you didnt know, couldnt tell or perhaps even care less.
Like the words of the old Cole Porter song, anything goes today. Fake trees, real trees, whatever floats ones boat is fine. Its the symbol and meaning of it all that counts, rather than the dazzle of lights and the size of the tree. All of us, whatever our faiths or backgrounds, reflect at this time of year on our achievements, failures, misunderstandings etc. Its rather nice to reflect amid a display of lights, and the more the merrier, dont you think?
Happy Holidays and Festivals of Lights and Stars To All. And To All A Good Night.
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