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The illuminations: history, origin and meaning

What’s more suggestive at Christmas than the illuminations? During the holidays, the lights cannot be missing. We find them on the facades of houses, wrapped around the tree, and hidden in the crib to make them shine at strategic points.

But when did the custom of lighting up the house for Christmas originate? It seems that this tradition is ancient and has to do with the profound religious sense of Christian countries. Initially, the light sources were torches and candles, used to decorate window sills, furniture, and the first Christmas trees.

The meaning of the illuminations

The meaning of the lights is that they were used initially to warm the entire night twofold. On the one hand, the desire was to make the house more welcoming and warm and to counteract the winter and the harsh cold. On the other hand, the solid, powerful symbolism that light has always had in the Christian religion immediately emerged. Light is the essence of God, and it is the first element He created.

For a believer, light represents the personification of Christ, who defeats death and carries forward the promise of eternal life to all men by resurrecting. Not surprisingly, the light is always present, even inside the places of worship. In the church, it constantly illuminates the tabernacle and the baptismal candle. From an early age, we learn what it means to access a candle in front of the Madonna statue or a saint. It is a sign of affection and devotion that allows us to speak directly with our spiritual guide.

The light of a candle has profound meanings. This scene, in other contexts, acquires even more charm. For example, imagine the villages of Germany, immersed in the dark forests of the north, capable of evoking the perception of an ancient and intense religiosity.

These flames and candles gave rise to the illuminations. They are a sign of devotion, which expresses the desire to welcome the light into one’s home and bring it outside so that everyone can see and enjoy it during the magical and joyful nights.

Representation of Illuminations


Source: housebeautiful

How are illuminations born?

In America, the illuminations are born as part of the celebrations dedicated to the saints held in our country since the dawn of time. As we know them today, the electric ones have a more recent origin. Around the 30s of the twentieth century, and have developed hand in hand with the spread of electric current for all population groups. The boom came in the 1950s, but even earlier, in some American cities with Italian inhabitants, the festivals were dedicated to the patron saints. The Madonna and every aspect of religion always had something fascinating to show beyond the lights.

Great past artists, such as Michelangelo or Bernini, have contributed to preparing great popular festivals in close collaboration. With famous writers and architects. The feasts had the great advantage of involving everyone, from the last of the peasants to the artisans, from the religious to the rulers. The feast day was not just an occasion to pay homage to God or a saint. It was also when everyone could put aside their everyday life. To make room for the most significant event: the saint’s feast. Thus the cities and small villages dressed up, and the churches were transformed into places to rejoice together and celebrate the holiday.

New technologies have brought this art form to new scenarios. Today candles have almost wholly given up space to electric lights, always able to reproduce a magical atmosphere that recalls the past.

The country of Illumination in Italy

Have you ever been to Italy, to the province of Lecce? This town is considered the world capital of illuminations. Yet it is only a tiny town of a few thousand inhabitants where three companies provide lights and set up public lighting for Christmas and the feast of Holy Sunday. The lights are essential here.

Why light up Christmas trees?

Christmas trees are part of the Christmas symbols. But when did we start lighting them? In this regard, we can tell you a fantastic story linked to Martin Luther. According to legend, Luther wandered in a snowy forest on Christmas Eve. The branches and leaves of the trees sparkled because of the ice that covered them, and the moon’s light made everything more fascinating and shining. 

So he thought it would be nice to make the branches of the trees that decorated the houses shine the same way during the holidays, just by lighting the candles. Only in the 18th century did the custom of lighting the tree during the holidays begin to spread, making them even more prosperous, colorful, and joyful.

The Illuminations today

Today we are surrounded by modernity. We live in the digital age that makes us lose sight of the emotion and suggestions of the past. Despite this, we have never given up on the magic of lights. We have only replaced them with LED lights and laser effects to recreate the Christmas atmosphere in new and original ways.


In recent years, Christmas illuminations have become an absolute must in the United States. Almost as an event related to fashion and costume. Every year, in the New York district of Dyker Heights. Since the mid-1980s, the inhabitants have given birth to an actual decoration race.

The goal is only one: to make one’s home worthy of neighbors’ admiration. And also curious tourists who visit it yearly. The preparations are very long; it starts well before Christmas. But obtaining a fantastic result is essential. The neighborhood is therefore transformed into an enchanted place. Populated by animated mannequins, balloons, moving sets, colored wooden sculptures, and many lights illuminating the houses and streets. And changing the Dyker Heights neighborhood into a magical Christmas village.

Have you decorated your home correctly but would like to make it even more fascinating? Don’t worry. There is always time to light up and set up new decorations. Visit the page on Amazon dedicated to Christmas illuminations and accessories!