5 Great Ways to Celebrate National Christmas Lights DayChristmas lights have been an American tradition since 1880. Before then, people decorated their homes by placing candles in windows or carefully balancing them on Christmas trees. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was Thomas Edison who first got the idea of stringing lights together to make Christmas decorations. 

However, the idea didn’t take off right away. Edison used the lights to decorate his lab in Menlo Park, NJ. Then in 1882, his associate, Edward H. Johnson, tried hanging them on his Christmas tree. But it wasn’t until 1895, when President Cleveland used them in the White House, that they finally caught on with the general public. Now they’re so popular, they have a whole day devoted to them.

National Christmas Lights Day is celebrated every year on December 1st. It’s a chance to celebrate the beauty and spirit of the season. If you’re looking for a great way to kick off the holidays, here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Watch the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

The tree at Rockefeller Center has been a cultural touchstone for over 80 years. Hundreds of people from around the world visit New York each year to watch the lights being switched on for the first time. The ceremony takes place on December 1st at 8 p.m (7 p.m. Central Time) and is broadcast live on NBC.

Decorate Your Tree

National Christmas Lights Day is the perfect time to decorate your tree. However, rather than  traditional incandescent bulbs, consider switching to LED lights instead. They not only last longer, but require less energy making them significantly cheaper. 

Running a typical string of Christmas lights for 12 hours requires 480 watts of electricity, or about 0.48 kilowatt hours (kwh). It generally takes about 7 strings to light a 7-foot tree and 10 to light a 10-foot tree, which works out to around 3.36 ‒ 4.8 kwh per day. That means, if you keep your tree up throughout December (and why wouldn’t you?), it will cost $10.10 ‒ $22.13. 

By contrast, a string of LED lights only requires 54 watts (0.054 kwh). For a 10-foot tree, that works out to roughly $1.60 ‒ $2.49 for the entire month. 

Decorate Your House

Lighting your home transforms it into a bright and welcoming spectacle. It’s a tradition that goes back over 400 years, though modern light displays are far more colorful and creative than anything our ancestors ever devised. And National Christmas Lights Day is a great opportunity to demonstrate your own inventiveness and ingenuity. 

Because outdoor lights require even more power than indoor ones, switching to LEDs is going to save you a lot of money. A 25 foot string of C9 bulbs, which are typically used outside, uses 175 watts of electricity. A string of C9 LEDs, on the other hand, only uses 2.4 watts. These savings add up quickly. Depending on how big you want to go, they could be as high as $100 or more.

Set Up a Music Show

Syncing your lights to music is surprisingly easy with modern technology. You’ll need to purchase a control system that hooks up to your computer. Depending on how many channels you use, a good system will cost at least $25, but will be ready to use straight out of the box. A single channel means you can only tell your lights to do one thing at a time, while multiple channels let you create more complex displays. 

Next, download some lighting software (e.g. Light-O-Rama or Animated Lighting), choose a song, and program your show. The software breaks it down into short segments, so you can tell each channel whether to shine, twinkle, flicker, or fade.

Rather than broadcast over speakers, many people are setting up radio transmitters instead. These beam your music out over a very short distance, just enough for people to pick it up as they pass by. They’re not cheap (expect to pay at least $100 for a good one) but will earn you a lot of goodwill from your neighbors.


If you’re looking to decorate your house, string lights aren’t the only option. Icicle lights, cluster lights, lighted wreaths, and starlight spheres let you create unique and festive displays both inside and outside your home. And most holiday decor is widely available with LED lights so your energy costs will not be significant. National Christmas Lights Day is about fun, artistry, and cheer, so let your imagination run wild!