I remember the days of big lights, tinsel and rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Christmas in the late 1950’s was all about extravagance. If you had a real Christmas tree, it was bearing the weight of the ages with multi-colored ginormous lights and gaudy ornaments. In the ‘60’s if you were “very modern” you had an aluminum tree with a rotating electric color wheel which reminded me of a psychedelic light show. But the lights of Christmas would never be the same when the technology of miniaturization transformed the bright bulbous lights of Christmas past into the twinkling dazzling glow of the lights of Christmas present.
Imported from Italy, miniature light sets also known as Italian lights or fairy lights, were brought to the States by George Silvestri who began using them in his display business (his famous Italian light displays were first seen on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue). Now Yuletide decorators and Christmas light junkies could replace the 80 or so bulbs typically found on their grandmother’s Christmas tree with hundreds of tiny electric lights to create a winter wonderland transformed by a firefly glow. Today department stores, cityscapes and neighborhoods across the world employ hundreds of thousands of miniature lights to create displays of luminous luxury with an Italian twinkle.
*in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold brags about having “25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights” in his outdoor Christmas display