Know Ohio: Merry and Bright Buckeye State

There’s a lot to like about the holiday season. Some of our favorite traditions usually involve family, friends, gifts, and a delicious meal. And, up next, Know Ohio correspondent Mary Fecteau shines a light on another one of Ohio’s favorite holiday traditions.

Next week we celebrate – or mourn, depending on how you look at it, the last day of fall. And, while the colorful fall leaves are long gone, we’ve replaced them with another spectacle: holiday lights! 

The long winter nights are made brighter with this festive tradition, which we take very seriously here in Ohio. No matter what part of the Buckeye State you call home, you’re bound to have a park or zoo or just a really spirited neighbor with an amazing holiday light display. Here in Downtown Cleveland, one of my favorite light displays is just out the door in Playhouse Square.    

But the light displays we’re used to seeing weren’t always possible. Over a hundred years ago, festive Ohioans lit up their trees and holiday décor with candles – which, as you can imagine, was a bit dangerous.

The first string of electric holiday lights was created by the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, who was born in Ohio. And one of Ohio’s first public displays of these lights was in 1924 at Edison’s General Electric campus in East Cleveland. The campus, the National Electric Lamp Company or NELA for short, hosted elaborate displays of holiday lights to encourage people to buy them for their own homes. Over 90 years later, the tradition continues. This year’s display includes over half a million twinkling lights.

And, further down south, another historic site is known nationally for its dazzling display of lights. I’m talking about the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill in Clifton, OH. Built in the early 1800’s, Clifton Mill is one of the largest water powered grist mills still in existence. But during the holidays it’s transformed into a winter wonderland with 3.5 million lights illuminating the mill and the surrounding area. There’s even a 100 foot "waterfall" of fantastic red lights. 

As you can see, we’ve definitely come a long way since the days of decorating with candle light. I hope your holiday is merry and, most importantly, bright!

Instructional Links

Website Article: Northeast Ohio Family Fun, Must See Christmas Light Displays

Website Article: Ohio Christmas Events Calendar – 2015

Website Article: Library of Congress, Everyday Mysteries, Who invented electric Christmas lights?

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