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8 Myths & Facts About Christmas Light Installation

It's that special time of year when people start putting out Christmas lights - especially here in America, where the decorating of homes during the holiday season is a time-honored tradition. "Fairy lights" are a key part of private and public lighting displays. They're beautiful on any home, and they can accentuate nativity scenes, oversized candy canes, fake snowmen or any of your other favorite yule-tide adornments. How much do you know about the origin of Christmas lights? Do you know the best way to install them? Is it true they can be a safety hazard? Here are some facts and myths about Christmas lights and installing them.

8 Active Myths | Suggest a Myth
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FACT: Thomas Edison Put Up The First Display.

The first display of Christmas lights was put up in New Jersey in 1880 as a way of advertising the incandescent light bulb. Not a surprise that they would have started as something commercial. In 1882 he and his friend Edward Johnson set up the first light-decorated Christmas tree. Which rotated.

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MYTH: Lights Can Set Fire To Your Tree.

Between 2009 and 2011, there were about 200 fires a year which started in the Christmas tree. However, lights alone generally do not cause a fire unless there is exposed wiring. Leaving lights on overnight will not set fire to your tree (although it will waste a bit of energy).

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FACT: Hanging Outdoor Lights Can Get People Hurt.

Also true - carelessness while hanging outdoor lights or other decorations often results in ER trips for lacerations, back strains and fall-related injuries. Of course, this is not really the fault of the lights.

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FACT: If One Light Burns Out The Entire String Goes Out.

True with older style Christmas lights, where the circuit runs through the bulb, and most people have had the "joy" of spending a long time tracking down the broken bulb. One of the advantages of modern (if more expensive LED lights is that they don't have this problem.

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FACT: Blinking Lights Work On A Thermostat.

Most blinking light displays have a strip of metal in the bulb that bends when it gets heated, breaking the circuit. It then cools down and straightens out again. (More modern displays are computerized, which is why they twinkle in patterns and in some cases are musical).

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FACT: Outdoor Christmas Lights Did Not Exist Until The 1920s.

Proper, safe outdoor Christmas lights did not show up until the 1920s, and were not widely available until 1927. So, massive outdoor displays have only existed for a bit under 100 years, at least ones which were actually safe.

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MYTH: Christmas Lights Interfere With Wi-Fi.

Christmas lights do not slow down your wi-fi, even if you have the computerized ones. Some remote-operated displays might use a bit of bandwidth when turned on and off, but this one is definitely false.

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FACT: Early Lights Were Flaky.

Early Christmas lights were often painted by toy makers. The expansion and contraction from the heat generated by turning them on would make the paint flake. Later, of course, people just used colored glass (or plastic). These early lights often also came in highly elaborate shapes.