Home PROSPER Where Did Christmas Trees and House Lighting Come from Anyway?

Where Did Christmas Trees and House Lighting Come from Anyway?

by Heather Reynolds

Given its roots in English history, America was predictably late in adopting such signs of frivolity as Christmas tree decorating. The Massachusetts Puritans, in particular, frowned upon such pagan backsliding. But the influx of Catholic immigrants in the 19th century was bound to dilute these anti-Christmas tree decorating sentiments.

But North America has made up for its past deficiencies in the celebration of Christmas and in Christmas tree decorating by introducing two innovations. What are they and what is the impact that these innovations have had on the history of the Christmas tree?

In 1882, Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, developed the idea of Christmas lighting that ran on electricity. This innovation made outdoor Christmas tree lights possible and fostered the idea of decorating the trees in your yard (as well as other objects) to create Christmas light displays.

The Virtual Museum writes, “As early as 1912, the first illuminated trees appeared in Boston’s public areas. Outdoor Christmas trees quickly became commonplace in North America. After the First World War, this novelty reached Europe and became widespread towards the middle of the 20th century. In Canada, the fashion of the illuminated outdoor tree is very widespread. In the suburbs, there are almost as many Christmas trees outside as there are inside.”

The now well-established tradition of outdoor Christmas tree decorating complements the indoor Christmas tree decorating as well. The emergence of this tradition reflects the increasing appreciation people have for the importance of landscaping. We need to brighten our lives during winter outdoors, as well as indoors. Electric lights are an excellent choice for outdoor tree decorating. Not only are they durable, but they also can supply commodities often lacking on the winter landscape: color and light. Indeed, evergreens and outdoor lighting, whether used in conjunction or not, form the backbone of winter landscaping.

Some of these homeowners decorate their outdoor trees almost as profusely as they would indoor trees. One trend for homeowners is to buy a live Christmas tree for display inside, and to plant the tree outdoors after the holiday. This trend should only grow in strength in the future, as the real estate industry makes us more conscious of how much value landscaping can add to our properties.

Note that when I say, “live” Christmas trees, I am referring to those with roots. Many people refer to real Christmas trees that have been cut as “live,” to distinguish them from artificial Christmas trees. But although cut Christmas trees were once live, they aren’t anymore.

Safety Tips for Outdoor Christmas Tree Lighting

  • Have a certified electrician install a GFCI outlet if you don’t already have one.
  • Make sure product is intended to be used for outdoor Christmas tree lighting and follow all manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Any extension cords used for outdoor Christmas tree lights should also be intended specifically for use in the yard.
  • Water and electricity don’t mix, so keep any connections out of the snow/puddles and insert bulbs into sockets such that the sockets point down.
  • Unplug outdoor Christmas lights before replacing bulbs.
  • Don’t string outdoor Christmas tree lights on trees that come into contact with power lines.
  • If re-using old outdoor Christmas tree lights, inspect the wire to ensure that there are no wear spots.

Question: Jimmie, I realize to someone like yourself this may sound ridiculous and don’t want to waste your time, so I apologize in advance. What’s the difference between “cement,” “concrete” and “mortar?” – Mark M. in Prosper

Answer: Hi Mark, and no worries my friend. Often, the terms “cement,” “concrete” and “mortar” are used almost interchangeably by the layman in conversations about cement mixing. However, the terms refer to substances that have three different purposes:

  • Cement: The binding element in both concrete and mortar.
  • Concrete: A product composed of cement, sand and gravel or other coarse aggregate. When water is mixed in with this product, it activates the cement, which is the element responsible for binding the mix together to form one solid object.
  • Mortar: A product composed of cement and sand. When water is mixed in with this product, the cement is activated. Whereas concrete can stand alone, mortar is used to hold together bricks, stones, or other such hardscape components.

Cement mixing therefore, properly speaking, refers to using cement in the mixing of mortar or concrete. Mortar is sometimes used between bricks in the building of brick patios, although it is not always used in such cases. For instance, where mortar could crack in winter, the bricks may be simply fitted tightly against each other. This technique is also frequently used with Pavestone type products. A common bonding method for those used would be Polymer Sand which hardens with moisture applied. 

Question: Jimmie, when is the best time to prune Evergreen trees?? Thank you for your time, my wife and I really enjoy your columns!! – Holly P. in Prosper

Answer: Hello Holly, thank you for the kind words! Late winter would be the best time for that friend!

Question: Jimmie, we recently finished having a pool installed but the neighbor behind us have a two-story home that looks right down into the new pool area. We don’t have much depth to plant behind the pool but really need privacy. Are you able to provide a suggestion we can plant or have your company plant for us to help? – Marcia L. in Prosper

Answer: Hi Marcia, you have no idea how many of these I get so don’t feel alone!! Ten to 15 years ago the answer would always be Italian Cypress however we have now learned, the hard way of course, that they are disease prone and many have lost them altogether over time. The new answer that so far has been a magnificent replacement for those is Taylor Juniper!

Until next time…Happy Gardening!!


Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or jimmie@absolutelybushed.com. Jimmie is a Prosper resident and the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company, an award winning, family and veteran owned and operated business created in 1980 to provide the highest quality custom Outdoor Renovation available to homeowners in the Dallas Ft. Worth area.

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