In my part of the world the sun today went up at 8.31 AM and down at 3.34 PM. That means we had 7 hours 3 minutes of daylight and 16 hours 57 minutes of darkness. In 10 days, on December 21rst, on the shortest day and longest night of the year, the sun will go up at 8.40 AM and down at 3.36 PM, and we will have daylight for 6 hours 56 minutes and darkness for 17 hours 4 minutes. That’s a lot of darkness.
Traditionally we’ve mostly kept our light inside the houses for hundreds and thousands of years. The city of Copenhagen for instance had until the year 1500 only one single burning light outdoors. It was a wood fire really, in a basked hanging from a pole in front of the city hall. Everywhere else at that time, where people went out at night, they had to find their way through the darkness. Later inventions were made, like lamps burning fish oil, but because they were made from metal and horn, they only gave little light. Even later glass was used instead of horn and gas instead of fish oil, and in 1857 in Copenhagen 1600 oil lamps were replaced by 1800 gas lamps.
The very first electrical outdoor light was again used in Copenhagen in 1881, but in most other places and especially in the country side, electrical street lights weren’t used before several decades later. That means we’ve had electrical street lights for a little over hundred years.
In 1914 the Danish journalist Henrik Cavling had the idea to put up a Christmas tree in front of the city hall in Copenhagen to share electric light with all the citizens, because far from everyone had electric light in their houses in those days. The Christmas tree on Rådhuspladsen, the square in front of the city hall, has it’s 100 years anniversary this year.
When I was a child back in Germany in the fifties and sixties, we had electrical street lights, also in my street, but there was no outdoor Christmas tree anywhere, and no one used electrical light for outdoor decoration. I don’t remember when I first saw an outdoor Christmas tree with lights. It must have been at some point when I was a young adult, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression.
I like it, when people decorate their houses and gardens with electrical lights though. It makes it so much more interesting to walk or drive around at night. A light chain in a tree or bush makes a house look so much more idyllic when it’s dark. Thanks to the development of cheaper electrical light and especially LED, more and more people use light chains, not only around Christmas, but also as a light they keep up most of the winter.
Many people just decorate one or two or maybe even a few trees in their garden, and a new trend, when it comes to Christmas and winter lights, is the decoration of one’s flag pole, but today I saw some really serious Christmas decoration.
Some time ago somebody told me about a street in a nearby small city called Hinnerup, where the residents compete with each other about having the most decorations on their houses, and today, while my daughter Julie and I were in the area anyway while it was dark already, we went there to see what it was people talked about. This was what we saw: