Before electricity, people used to light their Christmas trees with candles! As I’m sure you can imagine, there were some issues with that trend.
At first, candles just sort of rested on the branches of tree and there was no easy way to secure them to the tree. People tried all kinds of methods like pinning the candles down with needles, or tying them to the branches with string, or even using melted wax for an adhesive. Not surprisingly, those methods didn’t hold up very well (pun not intended). In 1878, however, the genius mind of Frederick Artz introduced his invention of a clip on candleholder attachment. This solved one major problem, but the trend ignored the fact that candles on a tree located indoors is a terrible idea in the first place.
But, when there’s a will, there’s a way. People recognized that, yes, a highly flammable tree lit with flames is dangerous, but not if we only have the candles lit for 30 minutes at a time! They took safety measures of course, leaving a bucket of water or sand close by in the event of an “accidental” fire. I put accidental in quotes because it was a totally avoidable problem. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, I suppose.
Insurance companies don’t work that way, though. Christmas trees went up in flames so often in America that in the early 1900s, insurance companies refused to pay for fires started by candle lit trees. They began to include a “known risk” claus in their insurance policies.
Around the 19-teens, electric lights became more accessible to the public. You could buy lights for around $1.75 a strand. You may be thinking, oh! that’s not so bad, but if you adjust for inflation and cost of living today, that’s about $40 for one strand of electric lights. I doubt they were very long strands, too. But with the development of technology, electric lights became cheaper and more widespread as they decades went on, which brings us to today!
Fortunately, Christmas trees are much less hazardous now than they were 120 years ago. We can laugh about it now, but I’m sure in 120 years, people will be laughing at us for the weird and dangerous Christmas traditions we have…