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The Brief and Strangely Interesting History Of Christmas Lights

First, there was the Yule Log to light long winter nights. Then candles illuminated Christmas tree. Thomas Edison hung the first electric Christmas lights in his laboratory in 1880, which replaced the dangers of candle-lit trees with the dangers of electrical fires. Even the Great Depression couldn't stop people from buying Christmas lights.
The tradition of stringing electric lights may have started as a Christmas thing in America, but now it's a global phenomenon used for all kinds winter festivuses (festivi?). It's a practice we take for granted—come December, they're everywhere. The evolution of the Christmas light parallels that of the light bulb, with some remarkably ornate—OK, tacky—variations. But regardless of how they look, one thing's for certain: They're a much better option than sticking a candle in a tree.

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It's just too bad they cribbed the article from Jim On Light.com's 3 part series.

http://www.jimonlight.com/2009/11/30/jimonlight-coms-guide-to-christmas-lights-part-1-history-of-christmas-lights/
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I once made a box that had a translucent front screen, with a small string of about six old school lights, red blue yellow green, strung randomly in the box. In front of the screen was a jeweled pattern slab of glass.

The lights would all blink randomly, and it made a superb prop for listening to music, or just if you're bored.
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