The All-american Christmas Tree-dition
Pagans and Romans used evergreen trees in winter festivities long before the birth of Christianity, but it took American ingenuity to light up the idea and bring it home for the holidays. The Germans lit the earliest Christmas trees with candles, which had the dual disadvantage of being messy (the dripping wax) and dangerous (the flames dancing near those pine needles). In 1882, Edward H. Johnson, a vice president and inventor at Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company, hand-wired strings of the company’s new electric bulbs—80 red, white, and blue bulbs in total—and layered them on the tree in his Manhattan home. By 1903, General Electric was selling sets of prestrung Christmas lights to the masses for $12. That’s more than $300 in current dollars.