Like many people, I put up Christmas lights right after Thanksgiving because this is when the holiday season begins for me. I hang Christmas lights because they brighten the winter nights and add to the holiday feel. But there is more to learn about lighting up the darkness with Christmas lights, past and present.
Origins of Christmas Lights
Like many Christmas traditions, the Christmas light tradition began in Germany, where candles were traditionally used to lighten the Christmas trees. The candles were attached to branches with pins or melted wax. By the 17th Century, European Christians placed burning candles in their windows to indicate places of worship. This tradition eventually spread to America and other parts of the world.
Let’s jump even further in history. Ancient cultures celebrated the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. They would light candles and bonfires to symbolize the return of the sun and to ward off the darkness of winter. The holiday of Yule, celebrated by Germanic peoples, involved lighting a Yule log to honor the returning sun. Over time, as Christianity spread, many of these pagan traditions, including Yule, were incorporated into Christian celebrations.
Another religious reason for people to put up holiday lights is that the lights symbolize Jesus Christ and can be seen as a representation of the star of Bethlehem, which guided the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus.
Welcoming Travelers at Night
In earlier times, lighting homes and streets during Christmas also served a practical purpose. It helped guide and welcome travelers at night so that they found their way safely.
Celebrating the End of the Year
Christmas is close to the end of the year, and the lights symbolize celebration, hope, and optimism of a new beginning with the upcoming new year.
Here we come to the main reason why I put up Christmas lights. For me, lights are more than just decorations. When I hang them around my window, I reach out to the entire neighborhood. The lights create a festive atmosphere and turn an ordinary evening into a special moment.
Putting lights on a Christmas tree is a tradition in our household. We come together as a family and work as a team to decorate our home. Well, at least that is what I hope for every holiday season. It usually turns into a big chaos, but hey, at least we are all together.