The history of electric Christmas lights is fascinating in itself. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the original light bulb, used the Christmas season to promote electric lights for the trees. In earlier days, people would use candles to light the trees and would stand by with a bucket of water and a bucket of sand to put any fire out. The candles would only be lit for a few minutes at a time, and adults watched carefully for any sparks coming from the branches. Around the turn of the century, the candles were placed in glass balls or small lanterns.
When Thomas Edison’s associate, Edward H Johnson, displayed the first Christmas tree in America with electric lights, it was a sight to behold.
With eighty red, white and blue walnut-sized light bulbs, it created quite a sensation, once a Detroit newspaper spread the news. Soon Edward Johnson became known as the Father of Electric Christmas Tree Lights. It took President Grover Cleveland to popularize the lights, however. He sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House, an impressive sight with over one hundred multicolored lights.
Current light displays
Decorations for Christmas have come a long way from the simple stringing of lights on a tree. There are lights available that can be synchronized to flash in rhythm to the music, as well as inflatable lighted snowmen, Santa Claus’s reindeer and Nativity scenery. One of the best displays in South Florida is the South Florida Christmas display at 2300 North 57th Avenue, Hollywood. A favorite Christmas carol, O Come, O Come Emmanuel sung by Enya, with lights synchronized, can be seen here (vimeo.com/18283637). The whole purpose of the display, as the owners put it, is to express the joy of the incarnation and bring smiles and good cheer to fellow South Floridians. The hours for the display begin once Advent begins, this year at sundown Saturday, November 28, and end after the twelve days of Christmas.
There are several other light displays, some commercial and some private, that can be seen in the Broward and Palm Beach counties. Hoffmann’s Chocolates, at 5190 Lake Worth Road in Greenacres, has the Hoffman’s Wonderland display of lights starting on November 21 and lasting until December 30. The schedule for the Twenty Fifth Annual Winter Wonderland events can be found at www.hoffmans.com.
Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek holds a holiday event called the Holiday Fantasy of Lights each year. The drive-through event starts on November 20 and is held through January 2 from 6 to 10 pm. A unique aspect of this tour is the 3-D Fantasy of Lights; you may purchase 3-D glasses at the entry point of the drive-through. The 3-D glasses enhance the experience of the light display just as a movie in 3-D is enhanced by them. For more information, visit www.holidaylightsdrivethru.com.
If the traditional holiday displays are not enough, there are holiday boat parades in both Broward and Palm Beach counties. The city of Boca Raton has held a Holiday Boat parade for 38 years, and this year’s parade, held on December 19 at 6:30 p.m., should prove to be as popular as ever. There will be vessels of all sizes, decorated in tropical and holiday themes. The route for the parade is six and a half miles long, and there is bleacher viewing at both Silver Palm Park and Red Reef Park. Participation is free. Participants receive a picture of their boats, as well as the opportunity to win prizes. For more about the Boca Raton Holiday Boat Parade, visit events at www.myboca.us.
The cities of Boynton Beach and Delray are also holding a free Holiday Boat Parade, the 44th annual parade they have jointly held. The decorated boats will line up at the Lantana Bridge near the Old Key Lime House and proceed to the George Bush Bridge in Delray. Public viewing areas are located at the Boynton Harbor Marina and at the Intracoastal Park, as well as areas along the parade route. Those in attendance are requested to bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. The parade begins at 7 p.m. on December 11. For information about the route and viewing area, call 561-243-7000.
Broward’s Winterfest Parade, now in its 44th year as “the Greatest show on H20,” will be held on December 12 from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. starting at the New River with VIP viewing at the historic Riverside Hotel and Stranahan House and traveling up the Intracoastal to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach slong 12 miles of shoreline. Visit winterfestparade.com for more information.
Several other events are listed at www.floridabywater.com, including the Pompano Beach Holiday Parade on December 13 at 6 p.m. “The Greater Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce loves hosting this event. The nation’s longest-running boat parade is a wonderful evening for both participants and spectators,” said Shane La Mar, a co-host of this year’s parade.
Even in Florida, there are plenty of lights to view, so enjoy the lights as you remember the Light of the World.