|Lighting up the 501 with Christmas tree lights|
|Sunday, 20 November 2016|
Story and photos
The Christmas tree has long been a symbol of the holiday season. Each year, people around the world cut down an evergreen tree or go up in the attic and pull down the artificial tree. We decorate it with lights and ornaments.
With a little internet research, I learned that people started putting candles on Christmas trees in the middle of the 17th century. These were attached to the end of tree branches with wax or pins and were adhered to the tree to represent shining stars. This tradition started in Germany and spread to Eastern Europe over the next two centuries. Because this was a serious fire hazard, most people didn’t put their trees up until Dec. 24, ensuring that they would only be up for a brief period of time while the tree was still fresh and much less flammable.
The custom of putting strings of lights on trees began in 1882 when an associate of Thomas Edison wired red, white and blue bulbs together and placed them on an evergreen tree. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland followed suit and decorated a Christmas tree in the White House with stringed lights. The rest of America took notice, and the tradition started of lighting a Christmas tree.
Over the years, the Christmas tree at our house has gone through lots of transitions. Early in our married life, we had a huge, live cedar tree with lots of lights, store-bought decorations and a few heirloom ornaments. Later, when our son came along, the tree was adorned with handmade ornaments.
Now our Christmas tree is very simple. We have purchased an artificial tree with built-in lights. We decorate the tree with only very special ornaments; many are hand-painted china masterpieces. These special pieces have been painted by my husband’s mother, Joanne Henderson. The remaining ornaments are ceramic that have had pictures of special events and special people in our lives printed on them. So every year, when we put the tree up, we get to re-live weddings, great times and see pictures of the people we love.
One of the reasons we have simplified our Christmas tree is so that we can spend more time out and about enjoying decorated Christmas lights in the 501. I love driving through neighborhoods and seeing Christmas trees in windows. I appreciate people taking the time to decorate their homes with Christmas lights. The term “lighting up like a Christmas tree” is on display in many communities in the 501.
Luckily for me, the 501 is home to many wonderful Christmas lights and beautiful displays of Christmas trees. There are three Christmas tree light displays in our area that I return to every single year. Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs is a display set among the gardens and contains millions of bulbs. The light display at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock is set to be lit on the first Saturday in December after the Downtown Little Rock parade. The lighting ceremony includes fireworks, music and the lighting of the capital and the giant Christmas tree inside the rotunda. Another community Christmas tree I always appreciate is found in Downtown Conway.
So the days are getting shorter and the evenings are getting cooler. That means one thing. Christmas is right around the corner, and Christmas trees will soon be decorated with lights and ornaments.