Light at Christmas

Reading the article about Christmas lights made me think about when the tradition of using lights to celebrate 25th December began.

So it won’t surprise you greatly to know I turned to Wikipedia where there’s a very interesting article about their history which begins:

“The custom harks back to the use of candles to decorate the Christmas tree in upper-class homes in 18th century Germany. Christmas trees displayed publicly and illuminated with electric lights became popular in the early 20th century. By the mid-20th century, it became customary to display strings of electric lights as Christmas decoration detached from the Christmas tree itself, along streets and buildings. In the United States, it became popular to outline private homes with such Christmas lights in tract housing beginning in the 1960s. By the late 20th century, the custom had also been adopted in non-western countries, notably in Japan.”

If you’re anything like me you’ll have to look up ‘tract housing’ now!

The concept of light and festivals of lights play an important part in many of the world’s religions, for example:

  • Diwali: a religious festival associated with Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism often referred to as The Festival of Lights;
  • Hannukkah: a Jewish holiday also called The Festival of Lights;
  • Tazaungdaing festival: a Buddhist festival marking the end of Kathina;
  • In Islam: The Light is one of the ninety-nine Beautiful Names of Allah; light is that by which things become known;
  • Christmas: Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth as the coming of the true light into the world.

I have spent the last couple of Christmases in a small village in Scotland and given the absence of street lights have had to resort to fixing a headlamp to my forehead when walking my dog in the evening. I may have looked (even) more stupid than usual but at least I could see where I was going! We all need light to see what we’re doing – people of all faiths and those of none – often refer to the darkness in the world and the need to expose the darkness to light.

Whatever you believe, whatever you are doing and wherever you are over this holiday period I hope there is plenty of light and you feel sure that, despite your own troubles or those in the wider world, the darkness will not overcome it.



This article was written by Stephen Williamson using our Community Reporters website at

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