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Die Erfindung der Lichterkette

The invention of the fairy lights

In 1882, Edward H. Johnson's house in Manhattan attracted numerous onlookers. They were interested in an extraordinary Christmas tree that was decorated not with wax candles, but with 80 walnut-sized electric light bulbs in the colors red, white and blue. This slowly rotating tree was enthusiastically featured by journalist William Croffut in the Detroit Post and Tribune. He described the dancing colors as an enchanting appearance.
The idea was simple but brilliant. As vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, Johnson had often watched his partner Thomas Edison experiment with string lights. So he hired a technician to design a string of small light bulbs for his private tree.
The world's first practical light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison in 1879, and just three years later, his colleague Johnson was the first to decorate a Christmas tree with a string of electric lights.
He was lucky that his house was already connected to the electricity grid. The installation was also laborious, as a "wirer" had to connect each light bulb individually.

Commercial production of Christmas lights began as early as 1890, and department stores began decorating their windows with them. In the early 20th century, this tradition gained further popularity. It wasn't until a few decades later that private households followed suit, when mass production made lamps more affordable. The rapidly advancing electrification of households additionally supported the triumph of electric Christmas lighting.

In Germany alone, according to a survey by the opinion research institute YouGov, around 214 million fairy lights, flashing window pictures or illuminated arches lit up during the Christmas and Advent season in 2020. The trend towards fairy lights with long-lasting and economical LEDs continues here.
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