Christmas Lights Brighten Up Holiday Spirits

By Lauren Wanko

For lovers of Christmas lights this is their time to shine. Homeowners, even boat owners, have hung strings of vibrant colors that sparkle after the sun sets.

“They just make you happy when you see them,” said Mackenzie Hartung.

The Hartungs added their lights the day after Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving this year was so late that I feel like if you don’t put them up right away then you only get two to three weeks of Christmas lights, and Christmas lights are so pretty,” she said.

At the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park one of Edison’s original incandescent light bulbs is showcased in the museum.

“First he would invent a machine called the phonograph, so this is the birthplace of recorded sound,” said museum director Kathleen Carlucci. “More importantly to many people, and what he is known for, he will perfect incandescent light. Edison will perfect that here in 1879, but he doesn’t light a Christmas tree here.”

Carlucci says Edward Johnson did in the 1880s. He was working then as Vice President for Edison Electric Light Company and he decorated his family’s Christmas tree with Edison’s lamps.

“He took an idea and made another idea out of it – just like Edison did with many others,” Carlucci said.

Now it’s difficult to imagine Christmas without them.

“I just think they bring people together somehow, there’s something special about looking at your house all lit up,” Dan Brateris said.

Brateris, Professor of electrical engineering, loves lights. About 10 years ago, he and his buddies decided to coordinate a computerized Christmas light show with all sorts of effects, including pyrotechnics.

“It’s more like a rock concert with Christmas lights,” he said.

Organizers have opened the free event to the public every year since. 12,000 visitors filed onto the lawn to watch the show, which included more than 80,000 bulbs on a Wall Township homeowner’s property. Last year’s audience members donated $10,000 to a local charity.

“We’re astounded by the number of people,” Brateris said.

“Having the whole place lit up is just the whole spirit of Christmas,” Debbie Rothermund said.

Whether there’s 80,000 bulbs, or a little less, it seems this dazzling Christmas tradition continues to light up towns throughout the state.