22 December: Christmas lights were invented on this day in 1882

December means Christmas and Christmas means lights; therefore, lights are Christmas. There’s nothing like a little syllogism to remind us of how consubstantial lights are to this time of the year.

From a historical point of view, they arrived on the scene at exactly the right moment in time because wax and candles risked ruining the season’s festivities with Christmas tree fires and other such calamities. The man who saved the day was Thomas Edison’s ‘loyal lieutenant’, Edward H. Johnson: on 22 December 1882 he wired a string of coloured light bulbs on 36th Street. It was something of a miracle, an almost uncanny apparition in the night. Unlike wax, however, electricity was still expensive and a few years had to go by before other streets could also afford to follow suit.

Nowadays, Christmas lights have a tendency to stay on even after the holidays: indeed, there have been sightings of them as late as Easter. Candle wax has waned, rather than waxed, while our strings of Christmas lights just keep getting longer and longer and longer.

Name Day:
St Frances Xavier Cabrini