Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Monday 15th December - Christmas lights

What’s the history of lights at Christmas time? They appear to have started with the tree whose origin is obscure. The legends usually credit St Boniface with creating the first link with Christianity. The triangular shape of the fir tree was thought to symbolise the Holy Trinity and by the 12th century it was being hung upside down at Christmas as a symbol of Christianity. the first recorded decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia in 1510. Martin Luther is credited as being the first to put candles onto the tree having seen the stars shining through a fir tree when out walking.

The idea developed initially in Germany but was spread to other parts of the world, mainly by people with a German background. The royal family were early adopters but the rest of the UK was slow to follow. Not surprisingly, tree lights developed rapidly in America, the first electric lights were recorded at the home of an associate of Thomas Edison in 1882. A web search finds a number of towns - all in the US - claiming to be the first to illuminate Christmas trees.

Today the practice continues in varying degrees. I took these pictures this evening on the way home from Aston Clinton (where I picked up the proof of a new Order of Service for St Peter and St Paul). The tree is Wendover: reasonably restrained - and low power LED lights. I’m not sure about the clock tower... is this a joyful celebration of Christ’s birth or a extravagant use of energy and contribution to global warming? No comment on the two houses.

We’re encouraged to change to low energy bulbs: we’re slowly doing so at home but finding effective ones for some fittings is a challenge. The first set I bought for our lounge, which has small lampshades on wall brackets that need golfball bulbs, was a disaster: they took about 10 minutes to come on! They’ve now been moved to another room. I’ve found some suitable bulbs that start reasonably promptly. I’m having the same problem in the kitchen where we have reflector bulbs recessed in the low ceiling. Again the first attempt at replacements were so slow to start that they were nearly useless. However, I’m gradually changing to ones that Gil Lec in Chesham supply. They also sell basic energy-savers for 99p - a big change from a few years ago.
However, I don’t think giving energy savers as presents will be very popular at Christmas.

Tomorrow: charity


Margaret said...

Hi David - I like the photos.
I too have a bit of a dilema over Christmas Lights and the environmental issues. We have a house near us that every year, from the beginning of Advent to twelth night is covered in lights and now they have spread to the garden. I admit that the children and I look forward to seeing them there as they do have a magical appeal and the owner uses them to raise money for charity. But now some of the neighbours have increasingly started to compete. The proliferation will obviously be detrimental to the amount of energy being consumed and have an effect on climate change but are we in the Church about stopping people celebrating Christmas? I too would like people to grasp the true meaning of Christmas and enjoy, every year, seeing the school nativity plays and the delight in children's faces but we need to make sure we are not seen as kill-joys while we spread the message of Christ's birth and what that means to us and others, whether they recognise it or not.

David Harris said...

Charity or not, I think this is over the top. Christ was born in a stable in very different circumstances from the garish lights shown and while it's right to celebrate, I think this is too much. The enviromental impact, too, needs to be counted. It's a case for restraing 'less is more'