About vintage Christmas tree lights

Written by anne madison
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About vintage Christmas tree lights
NOMA Christmas lights had a characteristic teardrop shape. (Getty Thinkstock)

Christmas tends to bring a sense of nostalgia to many people, so it's not surprising that longing for the past leads many to search for vintage Christmas tree lights. You can add a sense of tradition to your celebration by decorating with old-fashioned bulbs. With just a few precautions, vintage Christmas lights can keep childhood memories alive.

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History

Originally, candles were used for Christmas tree lights. People melted a bit of wax onto a tree branch, then stuck the candle into the melted wax to hold it to the tree. In 1882, Thomas Edison's partner Edward Johnson made the first strand of electric tree lights. These light kits were expensive and required the user to know something about electrical wiring to be able to assemble and string them.

In 1917, Albert Sadacca began manufacturing strings of coloured lights for sale to the general public. Eventually he founded the National Outfit Manufacturer's Association (NOMA), which was the leading producer of Christmas lights through the 1960s.

Types

The NOMA company made most vintage Christmas tree lights. They made many novelty lights in unusual shapes. Bubble lights became popular; they looked something like a glass candle filled with liquid. As the bulb heated, the liquid began to bubble within it. By the 1950s, most novelty lights gave way to the teardrop-shaped Christmas lights. Vintage teardrop lights are larger than modern teardrop lights.

Collecting

Most people who collect vintage Christmas lights do it because they enjoy the nostalgia and connection to a simpler time. If you're interested in becoming a collector, you may want to join a group such as The Golden Glow of Christmas Past. This group of collectors holds an annual convention and provides information about antique Christmas decorations through a bimonthly newsletter.

Collectors especially prize Christmas lights from the 1960s or earlier. Most collectors want at least one set of bubble lights in their collection. They also prize milk glass lights from the 1920s.

Considerations

Recreations of vintage lights are available for people who like the look of vintage Christmas lights but either aren't concerned about authenticity or do have safety concerns over the older lights. These recreations are typically less expensive than their antique counterparts and are often easier to find.

Warning

Vintage Christmas tree lights can add a warm and nostalgic feel to the holiday, but should be closely monitored as the older electrical wiring may have broken down over time. Even if the vintage tree lights are in perfect condition, fire safety codes were not as strict in the past as they eventually became. Never leave tree lights burning unattended.

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