Message from the Publisher


Although another Christmas is behind us, I am writing this article on December 27th and we are, according to a church calendar, still in the Christmas season until it officially ends on January 7th with the Epiphany and the three wise men show up to pay homage to Baby Jesus. Unfortunately, the stores have already cleared out Christmas merchandise and replacing it with Valentine’s Day! It is no wonder our lives are rushed and we can’t enjoy the moment. We are continually pushed to the next holiday or event whether we like it or not. But that is not going to stop me from talking about Christmas and decorations.

As I’ve said in a previous publisher’s message, one of the nice things about my new job is that I walk in different neighborhoods and see a variety of beautiful architecture and homes. Well, during the Christmas season it was even more beautiful, especially at night, being able to look at all the holiday displays that people decked out their homes with.

There were simple displays with maybe a wreath and a few lights, to middle of the road displays that offered blow up characters, nativity scenes, and a few more lights, to the over the top – elaborate displays that gave you light shows synchronized with music, moving objects and thousands of lights. The traditional snowmen, Santa and reindeer were now accompanied by Star Wars and Disney figures such as Darth Vader and Yoda in Santa suits, Olaf from the movie Frozen, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, The Grinch, and even Santa on a motorcycle, in a hot tub, or riding an ATV!

Animated Inflatable SnowmanOne of my favorites was a blow up “shivering” snowman that shook with a sign that said, “Brrr”.  Seems very appropriate for the extremely cold weather we have been having. And towns such as Elmhurst, from what I can figure out, must have offered their residents an opportunity to purchase an evergreen tree as there were city blocks with trees in front of houses each decorated differently by the homeowner. It made the neighborhoods all the more festive!

There were a couple of dragons too with wings (which I can’t for the life of me figure out how that has anything to do with Christmas) that freaked out some of the dogs I was walking. They would cautiously walk by; looking back all the while making sure it wasn’t following us. Or, I would have other dogs defiantly bark at the menacing figure letting them know they weren’t scared at all. It was quite comical actually, especially when they would run up, lift their leg and, well, mark their territory. Take that Mr. Dragon!

As I looked at all of the pageantry and time devoted to erecting these displays, I wondered how this all came about. Why, I ask, do people go through all the trouble, sometimes during frigid temperatures, to put up holiday displays? So I went on line and did a bit of research to find out when it all started. It’s actually quite interesting. I give credit to much of the information to eHow.

The tradition of displaying outdoor Christmas lighting apparently stemmed from the trend of lighting up Christmas trees during the Christmas season. Trees during the 17th century were decorated with small candles attached to the tree branches. European Christians also used to display a burning candle in the window of their home so other Christians would view it and know they were welcome to come worship in their homes with them.

Along came Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb. During the 1880 Christmas season, Edison introduced the first outdoor Christmas light display to the world. He displayed the lights outside of his laboratory compound, which sat near a railway where many people could see it each night. This was the first official Christmas display that was separate from decorating just the Christmas tree.

The first set of string lights was invented by Edison’s apprentice, Edward Johnson, which consisted of 80 small electric light bulbs. In 1890, the strings of lights were mass-produced and department stores began displaying them in Christmas displays in their stores. However, the expense kept the public from using them because they were not affordable.

In 1895, the first White House electrically lit Christmas tree was sponsored by President Grover Cleveland, which brought national attention to the trend. At the time, only wealthy people could afford the cost, which was upward of $300 per season (which would be more than $2,000 in 2010).

NOMA was the company that introduced and created safe Christmas lights and they became the largest Christmas light distributor. Increasing competition from competitors though forced them to stop producing and distributing lights in 1968. However, their efforts made decorating homes affordable; more and more people began using lights to decorate their houses to symbolize the Christmas star that was supposed to have led the Three Wise Men to the manger where Jesus was born on Christmas Day.

What we see displayed today has come a long way from the unsafe practice of burning candles on a Christmas tree or in windows. The displays I’ve seen of late mainly consist of the miniature LED lights, but I’m happy to see the larger bulbs making a comeback. Doesn’t it always seem that things from our past always reappear?

But the question still remains. Why do we decorate our homes? Personally, for me its tradition and I love the beauty of the lights during the dark days of December. Now that I have grandchildren, the look in their eyes as they gaze upon all the shimmering lights and colors brings back fond memories of my childhood. And I’m sure there is a certain amount of competitive spirit that comes out in people to make their display the best. Remember the “energy crisis” when people were told to conserve and didn’t put up their lights? That was a boring year!

I believe Christmas displays and all the joy they bring helps us move into the New Year with renewed anticipation of a bright future. Whatever the reason, I hope it continues for generations to come. Before they are all taken down, drive around and view all the beautiful displays and look brightly into the future!

Barbara Piltaver family photoSome of the monthly events posted in January’s calendar may seem frivolous, but some can be actually fun or a way to help with some New Year resolutions. January is “Get Organized Month” – I need that. “National Be On-Purpose Month” – need that too! “National Clean Up Your Computer Month” – Oh do I need to do that. “National Hot Tea Month” – It’s always hot tea month for me. And how about “Be Kind to Food Servers Month”? Waiters and Waitresses can always use a smile from a customer and don’t forget to tip!

From my family to yours Happy New Year!  God Bless America!

Barbara J. Piltaver, Publisher
People & Places Newspaper