London has a varied array of Christmas lights and displays that will wow, dazzle, and amaze both the young and old. They match, if not surpass, the lights of any other city in the world. However, let me take you back in time, to where the magical show of lights began…
It was in the mid 1800’s that Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, popularised the practice of a Christmas tree in the home, illuminated by candles. However, this was a very dangerous practice due to lit candles being (and still being today) responsible for many a fire. A safer method of lighting Christmas trees was needed. It’s across the pond to the Great Nation of the United States of America that we can thank Thomas Edison the inventor of the modern-day filament lightbulb, for a safer solution.
It is believed that Thomas Edison created the first strand of electrical lights that he hung around his Laboratory in Menlo Park at Christmas 1880. The workers, residents, and passing train passengers were the first to see and experience something that would grow beyond all recognition into a tradition that is loved throughout the world.
The Christmas of 1882 saw Edison’s friend and partner Edward H Johnson create the world’s first string of electric Christmas tree lights. He hand wired 80 bulbs made up of the colours red, white and blue and strung them around his Christmas tree.
Let us head back home to London, it was here that the world-renowned store Selfridges put on an illuminated Christmas display in 1935, it took another nineteen years till 1954 that London’s first Christmas streetlights were put in place the length of Regent Street, it was these two events that have led to the tradition of Christmas streetlights and displays in London were born. In 1959 Oxford Street followed suit and was decorated with festive lights.
Embark on a Christmas Lights Tour of London
Here are just a selection of five Christmas Street lights and displays that you will see on a Black Taxi Tour Christmas Lights Tour, where your personal driver guide will give you some of the local history and events that make our capital city such a great place to visit at Christmas, or any other time:
Oxford Street (where it all started with Selfridges)
Oxford Street being the first to illuminate this year, it will have approximately 5000 stars made up of 300,000 led bulbs.
In Regent Street, you will see the ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ lights based on the 1950’s Angels that first lined this boulevard.
Carnaby Street has been at the centre of fashion since the end of WWII. When you visit the theme is where you will see a compilation of the last 25 years of Christmas lighting.
Covent Garden is always a treat, when visiting you feel the history of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century seeping through the fabric of the buildings. On a visit you will see the lovely lit 60 ft Christmas tree, mirrored baubles, mistletoe (what a great reason to ask a loved one for a kiss), this year they now have a reconditioned 1884, repainted Christmas Sleigh in the South Hall where you can get a photo, (it is roped off between the hours of 21:00 and 09:00).
Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
Each year since 1947 the people of Britain have received a Norwegian Spruce tree from the people of Norway and erected it in Trafalgar Square.
It was King Haakon VII of Norway that started the tradition of gifting a Norwegian Spruce (Christmas Tree) each year, in gratitude to the British people. Along with the crown prince and the government in exile, King Haakon escaped the Nazi invasion during WWII onboard HMS Devonshire, going into exile in the UK but not before King Haakon, stated that the ‘Crown of Norway must not leave the country’, King Haakon VII climbed cliffs and hid the Crown of Norway in a cave, where it was retrieved upon his return. Indeed, it may be Frank, your BTTL guide, whose family erected the gifted Norwegian Spruce Tree until recently!
We look forward to seeing some of you on one of our popular Christmas Light Tours of London this year. They are the highlight of our year.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas, may there be peace on earth and goodwill to all.