Holiday Lights


Dropping by Just Bulbs Light Bulb Store to purchase another strand of crystal star Christmas lights, I was sadly disappointed that this Upper East Side purveyor of everything having to do with the light bulb no longer carried my favorites, which I had purchased 10 years ago and needed to replace.

What I did walk into though was an entirely transformed world of holiday lighting.

Manager Anthony James, who would qualify for a Ph.D. in light bulbs if such a degree were granted, guided me through Just Bulbs’ labyrinth of options. Warning: this store is not for the claustrophobic.

“LEDs have revolutionized the holiday market,” he enthused about light emitting diodes. “It is not simply that they draw less electricity, are more environmentally friendly and last forever, but LEDs emit little heat. Requiring low voltage, and emitting less heat points toward a tremendous reduction in the possibility of holiday fires sparked by traditional Christmas tree lights.”

Newest and most popular are the battery-operated LED strands of light, which require only that you recharge the battery, though the strands still last for quite some time, according to Mr. James. Because the battery packs cut out the nest of electric cords returning to a fixed outlet, the battery-operated strands are flying off the shelves.

He also did admit that the light quality could be quite cold and icy blue in many of the LED strands of white light, although a few manufacturers are introducing warmer whites. The LEDs are particularly intense and bright, working quite well outdoors, which it seems is rather controversial in East Hampton where this change over to LED-lit Christmas trees lining the village’s commercial streets has elicited a cavalcade of complaints over the perceived multicolored garishness.

Admittedly, the older strands radiated a warmer glow and were quite sentimental. But then again, there was a similar avalanche of complaints when candlelit Christmas trees were supplanted with electric lights!

It’s wise to move on. Though having had a candle-lit Christmas tree myself, I must admit that there is nothing like it. And both I and my home survived.

Mr. James also addressed the issue of this season’s most popular light bulb color. Without hesitation, he said, “blue!”

“In regular incandescent lighting, blue recedes and can seldom be picked out. But the LED blue has an aggressive, almost Disney-like magic intensity to it,” he added.

If one travels down Three Mile Harbor Road, one will notice the effectiveness of blue LEDs strung on a forest of Christmas trees, which flank a driveway and seemingly disappear mysteriously into deep forest. The effect is quite beautiful.

Symphony of Lights—presumably named after the Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, synchronized building exterior decorative light and laser multimedia display—has taken the technology further. With its “Amazing Chasing Lights” product, your tree can sport the panache of a Broadway marquee. And the color-changing light system will no longer require your family running around the tree changing light bulb colors so that three reds don’t sit next to each other, as my mother always used to do and drove us boys crazy. Each bulb changes color every several seconds.

The dripping LED icicle is a perennial favorite since it came out several years ago, especially for exterior roof lines and gutters. In fact, LEDs’ low voltage requirements have exploded the outdoor holiday lighting market. Now homeowners can outline their entire house, light up Santa, the reindeer and Frosty for a fraction of their former electric costs, Mr. James told me.

Holiday trees can clothe themselves with even more personality. Holiday light strands come in a heavenly host of themes. And not to bore you, but as a resource, I am naming but a few of the theme options that might not only highlight this holiday, but other holidays, events, and parties in the future.

For the sports enthusiast, there are strands of lights in the shape of basketballs, soccer balls, footballs and, of course, baseballs. In particular, since we are in New York, baseballs for Mets and Yankee fans.

For cartoon lovers, there are Smurfs and the head of Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy.”

For food lovers, there are pizzas, Popsicles, M&Ms, ice cream sundaes, vegetables and a plethora of different kinds of chili peppers. There are even chef’s hat lights to top off any occasion.

For wine connoisseurs there are clusters of grapes, for musicians, there are guitars and a yellow submarine. For beach lovers, there’s an assortment of starfish, flip-flops, seashells and beach balls.

There’s also lights for children, including Raggedy Ann and Raggedly Andy, plus every character from “The Wizard of Oz.” For nature lovers, there are butterflies, cows and flamingos. And for ”Star Wars” addicts, there’s even a string of Yodas.

To repeat, this is naming only a few of the large assortment and selection.

To tint your interiors in the late evening, there are more hues in the Edison bulb family to choose from. There’s turquoise blue, forest green, pumpkin orange, fuchsia pink and royal purple; lots of pretty colors to pep up your party.

The most popular item, though?

“Well,” admitted Mr. James, “It’s still the balls.”

He was referring to the 6-inch diameter snowballs/star balls/ice balls, which are speckled with a firmament of tiny lights and reflective plastic crystal meant to be nestled into a spray of evergreens or suspended magically above a doorway.

And what is the most popular color for these balls?

“By far, the blue balls,” he insisted.

The good news is that with the holidays upon us, we can be ever so much more specific with our festive lighting choices, due to the advancing world of LEDs. The bad news is that classic strands in regular voltage are diminishing quickly. So if nostalgia is deeply ingrained in your holiday psyche, now is the time to hoard, because tomorrow there will be no more. But, if you are adventurous, there is a new world in holiday lighting and it is definitely out there for you and your family to embrace.

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