Thursday Salute to Originals: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Where the Heck Are Your Branches?

Gone with the Wind Christmas Tree with Candle Lighting

Gone with the Wind (Image Credit:

Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind could never image a Christmas tree lit up in the color of a rainbow that blinks and that could last for days without causing fire. In her days, the best you can do was to carefully glue candles with melted wax to a tree branch, light it up, and put it out before it burned the whole tree down.

Technology has done to change our world into a much more colorful place. Before 1900, only a few American families would light their Christmas tree with candles, and the others just didn’t do it at all. But in 1882, Edward Johnson, vice president of Thomas Edison’s Edison Electric Light Company, took a big step forward. He ordered 80 electric incandescent light bulbs especially made for him and lit his Christmas tree electrically for the first time in history. Guess he not only had the resources and the technology, but also good decorating taste!

Christmas lights became more widely used in 1930 when their price dropped, making them more available to the standard household. For the past decades, merchandisers, governments, organizations, and families in this country were obsessed with lighting for Christmas. Everyone has a unique interpretation of what holiday lighting means to them. The National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony held near the White House has been around since 1923, expressing “our local and national communities coming together to celebrate the season and to share the message of peace.”

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2011

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2011 (Image Credit:

So how far can Christmas tree design go? We’ve heard of Christmas trees made out of books, bicycles, shopping carts, beer bottles, and we’ve seen Christmas trees illuminated in every bizarre color. This year, the tree commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the designer trees displayed in Paris really stand out from the crowd, mostly for their restraint in color, material, or lighting.

The Victoria and Albert Museum Christmas tree is designed by Danish designers Sophie Nielsen and Rolf Knudsen. It is constructed of 1500 strands of elastic cord. Within each bundle, the suspension creates the geometric shapes which resemble Christmas ornaments. Then the shadows on the floor created by the single light source and the ornaments resemble the structure of a huge snowflake. The whole structure has completely conceptualized the idea of a Christmas tree in a magical way. It captures the core shapes of two objects, reinventing the tree icon using minimal construction and reimagining a snowflake with light and shadow.

Christmas Tree Wires Light and Shadow Snowflake

Victoria and Albert Museum Christmas tree (image credit: Studio Roso)

The designer Christmas trees on display at the Hôtel Salmon de Rothschild, Paris are even more eye-catching. Expressing the individual design sensibilities of each fashion icon, the traditional form of the Christmas tree is preserved while its construction and materials depart from tradition.

Fashion Designer Christmas Trees

Left: Tree by Dior / Center: Tree by Louis Vuitton / Right: Tree by Jean-Claude Jitrois and Jonone (image credits:

–> If you celebrate Christmas, how are you decorating your tree this year? Do your choices reflect your design sensibility? Send us photos!

Happy Holidays to you all, my dear Beneath the Surface readers!