The origin of Christmas lights on houses has a somewhat dim past. Some sources suggest it comes from the early 1800s, when candles on trees in homes represented hope. That hope could be from having a …
The origin of Christmas lights on houses has a somewhat dim past. Some sources suggest it comes from the early 1800s, when candles on trees in homes represented hope. That hope could be from having a successful harvest or from belief in salvation brought by the birth of Jesus, celebrated at the end of the year.
Some others say it was Martin Luther in the 16th century who wanted his family to see a representation of stars sparkling through tree branches he noticed on a nightime walk. Yet others offer lights as the shared ritual of communities, a tradition that may have evolved during pagan times from the Yule log.
When electrical lights became more common, they found their way to rooftops and houses. In the 1930s, the nation was wrapped in the Great Depression. Lights were a comfort to people with not a lot to anticipate, but those lights were predominately in cities and towns because most rural areas didn’t have electricity yet.
Lighting displays faded during World War II but blazed their way back after the war, often sponsored by power companies, chambers of commerce or cities themselves.
This year is very reminiscent of the Depression era. People are virus-weary, tired of staying in their homes separated from family and neighbors. Those influences may make decorating houses with lights more popular than in years past. It could also have much to do with people wanting something to illuminate the season and eliminate the past year, giving a cheerful twist to the night sky.
That wish has turned into something of a blessing to Katie Mattson of Powell and her husband. Mattson posted an ad on social media, offering a service to hang lights for those who can’t or didn’t want to.
It started as a way to catch up on finances, even though both work full time.
“I really wish we could do stuff for people for free,” Mattson wrote in an email. “But at the moment we just can’t.” The couple has completed several jobs and there are more booked.
Even those residents who don’t or can’t decorate their homes can enjoy lights placed around town by the City of Powell Parks Department.
Tim Miller, superintendent of the department, said it is true that there are more lights this year than in years past.
“We are putting up more lights [this year] and we are putting up some in parks we’ve never done before,” Miller said. “We’re just trying to brighten it up, light it up for people. This year especially.”
Not only are there more lights, some of them are brighter, too. Miller pointed out the train display twinkling on the lawn at city hall, soon to be joined by a horse and carriage near the fishing pond at Homesteader Park. Not only are those new locations for displays, the displays are LED lit and so seem to sparkle more brightly.
But Miller, who lives outside town proper, said even the countryside seems to glitter this year.
“I don’t know if its because of people being home with all the COVID stuff or what,” he said.