london lights

carnaby street

mayfair
mayfair

I just walked 130,000 steps exploring the city of London. That’s about 65 miles.  Jack who had a 10-day school break joined me for most of them. Because we were so horribly jet lagged, most of our walking was done after dark. This is the perfect time of year for late night rambling.

The USA may have been celebrating Thanksgiving (hence Jack’s vacation) but in the UK, it was Christmas all the way! I adore London this time of year.

bond street
bond street

Every major street and many smaller ones are elaborately festooned with blinding (well, almost!) lights criss crossing from end to end. Starting surprisingly early in November, various streets are assigned a special day when traffic is barred. On this day, stores hold special sales, temporary vendors sell treats and tat, performers entertain and a minor celebrity (or at lease a celebrity I’ve never heard of) throws the switch turning on the lights. They’ll stay lit until sometime in January.

 

regent street
regent street
south molton
south molton
jack on oxford st
jack on oxford st

This kind of ostentatious wonderful display started in Queen Victoria’s day. A tradition of illuminating a Christmas tree was brought from Germany. Candles were stuck on to branches with melted wax or pins then burned. The wealthy copied the Royal Family. No one else could afford to waste expensive candles. Nor risk their house burning to the ground if a lit one toppled into the tree starting an inferno.

 

west end
west end

40 years later, Tomas Edison had invented the incandescent light bulb. In 1882, his buddy, Edward Johnson strung 80 of them together, called the press and showed off the first electrically lit Christmas tree. A huge sigh of relief was heard from insurance companies everywhere. They had been refusing to payout on damages from the all too common tree fires.

Stores discovered lights on Christmas displays increased sales. Bulbs became cheaper and wiring safer. More people were able to have their own personal decorations. And towns could go light crazy! Which brings me back to the streets of London… visit if you can!

carnaby street
carnaby street