Written by: on December 12, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

Have you ever wondered where Christmas lights, candy canes and other holiday mainstays originated? Here we look at the history of some of the most enduring holiday-season inventions.

Some of our favorite holiday products, from decorations to toys, have surprising origins. Ever wondered where tinsel comes from (and why we drape it over the trees)? Or have you ever asked yourself when people started to wrap their presents in paper? Learn the history of these and other interesting holiday inventions.

Where Christmas Lights Come From

People first began putting lights on their Christmas trees in the 17th century by attaching small candles to the branches using wax or pins, according to the Great Idea Finder. As a result, most people didn’t put up their lights until Christmas Eve due to the risk of fire. The first electric Christmas lights were developed by Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison’s, in 1882. Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue lights and wrapped them around a rotating evergreen.

In the 1900s, department stores began using elaborate Christmas tree light displays to attract customers, but the practice wasn’t popularized domestically until 15-year-old Albert Sadacca, whose family produced novelty illuminated birds, started selling multicolored lights that were already strung together in response to a tragic fire in 1917 caused by lit candles. Sadacca’s business, the NOMA Electric Company, went on to become the world’s largest Christmas lighting company until 1965.

 The Story of Tinsel

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Advances in manufacturing eventually resulted in cheaper aluminum-based tinsel, and by the early 20th century most consumers could afford tinsel garlands, as well as individual pieces of tinsel known as icicles. By the 1950s, the use of tinsel garlands and icicles nearly overshadowed the use of Christmas lights.






The Delicious Origins of the Candy Cane

Image Source: Pixabay.com

The original canes were entirely white, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that the colorful red stripes were added. In the 1920s, cracker businessman Bob McCormack began making candy canes as Christmas treats for the community in Albany, Georgia, pulling, twisting, cutting and bending them by hand. In the 1950s, McCormack’s brother-in-law invented a machine to automate the process. Later, McCormack’s descendants developed packaging advances that enabled them to ship the fragile canes around the world and turned their company, Bobs Candies Inc., into the world’s largest candy cane producer.




Adhesive Tape and Wrapping Paper

Image Source: Pixabay.com

According to entrepreneurial blog Biz in a Boxx, people have been wrapping gifts since paper was first invented circa 105 A.D., but the practice didn’t become popular until around the 1920s. Before then, gifts were typically wrapped in tissue paper or plain brown paper until the printing technology improved and paper could be colored, decorated and folded in mass volumes. Hy-Sill Manufacturing Inc. was the first U.S. gift-wrapping company. Hallmark entered the market in 1917, selling large pieces of wrapping paper for $0.10 a sheet.





The Truth Behind Rudolph

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Millions of copies of the Rudolph story sold in the 1940s, and May eventually secured the character’s copyright for himself, producing a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon, a bestselling song and a television special that remains a perennial favorite. However, the story familiar to us today is slightly different from May’s original version, in which Rudolph grew up in a reindeer village rather than the North Pole, had a loving family and was discovered when Santa Claus came to drop off gifts at his home.





Learn more about these inventions:

What is Tinsel?

Christmas Tree Lights

Did You Ever Wonder About the Origin of the Candy Cane?

Entrepreneurs and Holiday Inventions

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Famous Toy Inventions

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