Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chistmas Light Transition

We've slipped into the first extended freezing period of winter, but at least no snow is predicted for the first real day of the hard-cold season, December 1. But any time now, we'll get that first coating.

Not long ago we visited a big box store that specializes in DIY goods, but for the holiday season the store has a sizable section devoted to Christmas decor, gewgaws and gimcracks. We bought a net of LED lights promising eight square feet of coverage. They are indoor/outdoor lights, and I have a front-yard bush in mind for their use. This marks a small technological transition, our first Christmas LEDs. Future generations might marvel that anyone ever put incandescent lights on their trees, just as I puzzle about lighted candles on Christmas trees.

”While more expensive in stores than their incandescent brethren, LED lights burn for more than 4,000 hours compared with less than 2,000 for standard bulbs, cost 14 cents to operate a 50-foot string for 300 hours compared with $8 for C7s and $11 for C9s, going by Consumer Reports figures," says The Street in a slide show called "Six Holiday Traditions Fading Into Obscurity," which it says includes intensely hot Christmas lights. (Another "tradition" cited is the aluminum Christmas tree; my grandmother had one, and it fascinated me as a small child; but I'd call that more of a mid-century fad than a tradition.)

C7s and C9s are terms I'd never heard for Christmas light-bulb sizes. More detail than anyone needs to know about "Christmas lighting technology" -- except Christmas-light manufacturers, who would probably want to read it in Cantonese -- is at this Wiki page. But it is good to learn that bubble lights inspired a series of complex and lengthy court cases over patents, if this charming page, "The History of Bubble Lights," is accurate.

Until well into the 1980s, my family's Christmas tree included a '50s-vintage string of six or eight bubble lights, except that all but two of the globes had been broken or had burned out in the misty years before I was old enough to appreciate them. The missing lights had been replaced by regular globes. I took over the annual decoration of our tree some time in the early '70s, and had a great fondness for the two surviving bubble lights, one blue, one red, which I unpacked and handled and repacked with great care.

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